Al Duhail crowned 2017-18 QNB Stars League champions
There could not have been a better occasion for Al Duhail’s coronation as the 2017-18 season QNB Stars League champions than they had on Saturday night. And they made it more memorable on their home turf by defeating Al Sailiya 5-2 to stay unbeaten in the tournament, the only team to do so.
Almoez Ali (ninth minute), Ismail Mohammed (27th and 42nd), Nam Tae-Hee (55th and 85th) scored the goals against Al Sailiya, whose players welcomed their Al Duhail counterparts to the pitch with a guard of honour, befitting the occasion.
Valentin Lazar pulled two goals back for Al Sailiya in the 79th and 90th minutes.
The winners were crowned in the presence of Qatar Football Association Vice-President Saud Abdulaziz Al Mohannadi, Qatar Stars League CEO Hani Taleb Ballan and senior QNB official Salim Anzan Al Nuaimi.
Al Duhail, coached by Algerian Djamel Belmadi, thus ended their triumphant campaign with a whopping 60 points from 19 victories.
Al Duhail had already sealed the title with a 5-0 victory over Al Kharaitiyat in Week 20 with an unassailable lead over nearest challengers Al Sadd and it was only a formality. And they had beaten Al Markhiya in Week 21.
Against Al Sailiya, Al Duhail started without their goal machines Youssef El Arabi, who was nursing an injury and did not feature in the start list, and Youssef Msakni, who was on the bench.
The battle for the top-scorer award was between them, with Moroccan striker El Arabi (26) topping the chart with just one goal more than Tunisian attacking midfielder Msakni.
In their absence, Almoez led the Al Duhail charge, with Ismail, who has been in good form, and South Korean midfielder Nam Tae-Hee too playing a charging game.
Such was the strength in their squad that they still won by a big margin. It may be recalled that El Arabi and Msakni jointly accounted for 51 of their 86 goals.
Midfielder Karim Boudiaf donned the captain’s armband as Al Duhail made their intentions clear from the start. They surged ahead in the ninth minute through Almoez.
The hosts doubled their lead as the half hour approached. This time, Boudiaf gave a through pass for Ismail to score.
Ismail was at it again as he slammed home a cross from Abdelrahman Mohammed with an on-the-run shot to help them to a 3-0 lead at half-time even as the rivals mostly defended.
Al Duhail took the field after resumption, with Msakny replacing Ismail. He created waves initially, but it was Nam who made it 4-0 by scoring from close range. The Tunisian limped off the field late in the game after aggravating his injury.
Al Sailiya, who had put up a much better performance in the first phase, holding Al Duhail to a 1-1 draw, were never in the game, leaving the opponents runaway winners. Valentin’s late goals were their only consolation.
He first scored off a pass from Temurkhuja Abdukholiqov and netted again after Nam found the mark for a second time.
Al Duhail thus achieved their sixth Qatar League title and first after they were formed by merging Lekhwiya with El Jaish. Four of them (2010-11, 2011-12, 2016-17 and 2017-18) came when Algerian Djamel Belmadi was at the helm. They had also triumphed under Eric Gerets (2013-14) and current Al Rayyan coach Michael Laudrup (2014-15).
Meanwhile, Al Duhail are doing extremely well in the AFC Champions League and had become the first team to qualify for the Round of 16.