Doha, 26 July 2020 - Umm Salal struck a blow to Al Duhail’s title hopes as Ayoub Azzi’s header ensured the Orange Fortress sealed a crucial 1-1 draw in the QNB Stars League against leaders at the Al Janoub Stadium
Though Al Duhail are still on top of the standings, second-placed Al Rayyan’s 2-1 win over Qatar SC on Friday, means the gap is down to just two points.
In the other match on Saturday, defending champions, Al Sadd held off a resilient Al Khor as Akram Afif’s brace ensured the Wolves won 2-1.
Al Sadd were without head coach Xavi Hernandez, who is in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus, the club said in a statement, hours before the kick-off.
Al Duhail were favourites heading into the match and Red Knights clearly had the upper hand as they dominated possession but had little to show for it.
With Yousef Msekni, Almoez Ali, and Han Kwang Song all starting, Walid Regragui’s men didn’t test Umm Salal goalie Baba Malick until the 18th minute when the 36-year-old veteran gathered Msekni’s scuffed effort.
The first half continued with Al Duhail enjoying more of the ball but it was Umm Salal who came close to scoring the opener just before half time as Walid Meslob’s free kick forced Mohammed al Bakri into a fine save.
Al Duhail soon grabbed the lead just minutes into the second half from Almoez Ali’s penalty. Once again, the pressure on Umm Salal saw the ball fall to Abdulrahman Moustafa whose effort was blocked by Omar Yahya’s hand in the box.
Almoez stepped up with an emphatic strike for his seventh league goal of the season.
The lead lasted only two minutes, and Umm Salal were level as Ayoub Azzi powered in a header from six yards in the 51st minute which caught the Al Duhail defence napping.
Al Duhail continued to control possession, but Umm Salal created the clearest opening when Mahmud Marwas on a quick break sent a sumptuous cross across the goal but Ismail could only find the side netting.
In the later stages,
Almoez saw his header fly agonizingly over the crossbar as Umm Salal held on for an important point, which moves them to 10th.
Al Sadd two good
Akram Afif marked his contract extension with a brace and Saad al Dosari made a vital penalty save in added time as third-placed Al Sadd beat Al Khor.
The Wolves dressed like medical doctors as they walked out of the tunnel in tribute to frontline workers who have been vital in the fight against COVID-19.
Al Sadd started the match brightly and were all over Al Khor defence but took until the 25th minute before finding the opener.
Baghdad Bounedjah and Abdulaziz Ansari exchanged passes swiftly before Ansari brilliantly set up Afif with a deft flick and the Asian Player of the Year made no mistake as he thumped past Baba Djibril.
Two minutes later, Tiago Bezerra continued his impressive goal-scoring run for Khor with his eighth strike of the season. Al Sadd’s Tarek Salman misread the flight of the ball, and it fell kindly for the Brazilian who showed strength and composure to shoot past Al Dosari.
Afif grabbed his second just before half time when he received the ball just inside the box, created space, and smashed a fierce drive past the hapless Djibril. The strike takes him past teammate, Bounedjah atop the top scorers’ chart with 14 goals.
Al Khor soaked up the pressure and almost caught the defending champions on the counter but Ahmed Hammoudan, whose pace troubled Bahaa Elnetty all night, managed to drag his shot harmlessly across goal.
Bounedjah missed a good chance five minutes from time when his effort from inside the six-yard box forced a brilliant save from Djibril.