QNB Stars League Week 18 – Al Gharafa 1 Al Arabi 0
Jonathan Kodjia struck the all-important goal as Al Gharafa defeated Al Arabi in a 2019-20 season QNB Stars League Week 18 match at the Al Janoub Stadium on Friday.
The Ivory Coast forward, who joined The Cheetahs in this year’s January transfer window, struck the winner in the 22nd minute of the game, the opening fixture of the tournament which resumed after a long break forced by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Incidentally, the first-leg match between the teams had also ended in an identical result in favour of Al Gharafa, who now have 31 points with their ninth victory.
Al Arabi thus suffered their sixth defeat and stood on 24 points.
Much was at stake for both teams, with passionate fans as well as rich tradition and reputation in Qatar football, although matches are now played without fans as per the protocol and precautionary measures.
The game was evenly fought, with Al Gharafa, coached by Serb Slavisa Jokanovic, enjoying 52 per cent possession after the first half and Al Arabi having exactly the same percentage of the ball at the end.
Al Gharafa had an upper hand early on and they reaped the rewards halfway through the opening session, with Abdulghani Muneer providing Kodjia with a defence-splitting pass and the latter finding the target dodging past a couple of Al Arabi players and beating goalkeeper Mahmoud Abunada.
Kodjia, the Al Gharafa spearhead, had a narrow miss in the 42nd minute as he hit wide of the left upright and then hit straight to the goalkeeper.
Al Arabi’s attacks were feeble as Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Yousef Abdulrazaq failed to breach the rival fort.
The Dream Team, seeking a victory in their bid to break into the top four to give themselves a chance to play in the Qatar Cup and AFC Champions League, upped the ante in the second half.
Lasogga headed wide soon after the hour mark as the rivals went slightly on the backfoot. The tall German forward again sent his shot straight to Burhan in the 77th minute. Icelander Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men could not make any roads despite their captain and Al Gharafa registered a crucial victory.
Al Gharafa were without Algerian midfielders Adlene Guedioura through an injury and suspended Sofiane Hanni, while Al Arabi’s Tunisian forward Hamdi Harbaoui sat out suspended.