Al Duhail’s crowning befits grand finale
Curtains were down on yet another Qatar Cup. Al Duhail extended their domination by winning the elite tournament’s fifth edition by beating Al Sadd 2-1 in the title clash. They thus registered a double, having won the QNB Stars League in such convincing fashion that they remained unbeaten throughout, the only team to do so.
The Al Sadd Stadium, the venue of all three games, sported a new look, quite befitting the occasion. Qatar Olympic Committee chief HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani crowned the winners, witnessed by a strong crowd of close to 12,000 in the grand finale.
Ismail Mohamed (78th minute) and Youssef El Arabi (penalty deep into stoppage time) scored the goals for Al Duhail who made a brilliant comeback into the match after being down by Qatar international Hassan Al Haydous’ goal in the 19th minute.
Moroccan striker El Arabi had emerged as the top scorer in the QNB Stars League, for the second successive season, with 26 goals. Al Duhail’s Youssef Msakny, who came second with 25 goals, however, missed the Qatar Cup as he is nursing an injury.
There was drama in the end when referee Abdulla Ali Athba awarded the penalty, which El Arabi converted and turned out to be the winner, after referring to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system. VAR, used many times during the first semifinal between Al Sadd and Al Rayyan, confirmed that El Arabi was tripped by Boualem Khoukhi inside the box.
While Al Duhail fans celebrated with gaiety, it was heartbreak for their Al Sadd counterparts who watched their team beat El Jaish 2-1 in last season’s Qatar Cup final.
This season, Al Sadd have one title to their credit, the season-opening Sheikh Jassim Cup which they claimed by defeating Al Duhail. The Wolves then finished as runners-up in the QNB Stars League.
The game was also noted for the technical battle between Jesualdo Ferreira and Djamel Belmadi. It was fourth time that they were going head-to-head this season. While Al Sadd won the season-opening Sheikh Jassim Cup, they lost to Al Duhail in both phases of QNB Stars League.
Belmadi once again underlined his credentials as a shrewd tactician, who has consistently been producing excellent results. He has achieved a lot in Qatar football — at both club and country levels.
The Algerian had guided Lekhwiya to Qatar Stars League titles in 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2016-17 seasons as well. He made it big at the regional level when he led Qatar to the Gulf Cup triumph in 2014, beating Saudi Arabia in the final.
It looked like Al Sadd were going to turn the tables on Al Duhail until the 78th minute when hard-working Ismail Mohamed equalised. In the end, The Red Knights again had the last laugh.
Al Sadd reached the final by edging arch-rivals Al Rayyan 6-2 on penalties after the regular time ended in a 2-2 draw.
Al Duhail’s path to the title was relatively easier as they prevailed over Al Gharafa by a 6-1 margin in the second semifinal.