QNB Stars League 2018-19: Al Duhail finish second after tough fight
After the end of 2018-19 season, all QNB Stars League clubs are looking at ways to avoid the drawbacks and rectify the mistakes ahead of the new season.
As part of coverage of the league championship that went by, the Qatar Stars League website analyses all 12 teams’ performance in the 2018-19 QNB Stars League, in the order of their final standings.
Al Duhail had a tough season after winning back-to-back league titles in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. They finished second behind Al Sadd with 50 points (15 wins, five draws and two defeats). The Red Knights scored 52 goals and conceded 17 to have a goal difference of 35.
The team’s performance was on the decline after the departure of Algerian coach Djamel Belmadi, under whom they won three championships in the 2017-18 season — QNB Stars League, Amir Cup and Qatar Cup.
The club signed Tunisian coach Nabil Maaloul as replacement for Belmadi.
Ismail Mohammed, who suffered a leg fracture during their Week 1 match against Al Shahania, and midfielder Karim Boudiaf suffered injuries and they affected the team. Tunisian professional Yousef Msakni had been out of action ever since he sustained a cruciate ligament injury towards the end of 2017-18 season.
It also adversely affected Al Duhail in the AFC Champions League, where they lost out to Iran’s Persepolis in the quarterfinal.
Al Duhail had not made any changes to the squad at the beginning of the season. Brazilian defender Lucas Mendez, South Korean midfielder Nam Tae-Hee, Moroccan striker Yousef El Arabi and Brazilian forward Paolo Edmilson, who joined them at the end of 2017-18 season, continued.
After Al Duhail gained the lead position in the table, they kept it until the 15th round after which their postponed match (rescheduled due to AFC Champions League engagement) against Al Sadd from Week 9 was played. Al Sadd won the game 3-1 and then regained the lead.
When the QNB Stars League resumed after the Asian Cup with Week 16 action, Al Duhail witnessed a number of changes, most notably the signing of Portuguese coach Rui Faria as successor to Maaloul and Moroccan defender Mehdi Benatia from Juventus, in place of Mendez. Japan’s Shoya Nakajima also joined the squad as Nam got injured while doing duty for the South Korean national team.
Al Duhail got back the services of defender Ahmed Yasser following his stint in Japan, as they had a strong defensive line-up that also featured Bassam Al Rawi.
They were hoping to win the league title for the third season in a row, but the task was very difficult especially after their drawn encounter with Al Sadd in Week 20.
During the season, several players excelled for Al Duhail. They included Almoez Ali, the best player of 2019 Asian Cup, Bassam, Boudiaf, El Arabi and Sultan Al Breik.