QSL Cup 2017 — Highlights
Al Gharafa’s dramatic 3-2 victory over Al Rayyan at the Qatar SC Stadium on Tuesday provided the fitting finale to the sixth edition of QSL Cup.
The win not only enabled Al Gharafa to end their long title drought but made them the first team to win the QSL Cup twice. Al Sadd, Al Wakrah, erstwhile El Jaish and Qatar SC are the other champions of the tournament, revived this year after a gap of three seasons.
Al Gharafa had beaten Al Ahli 5-0 in the inaugural edition’s final in 2009.
In the semifinals this time around, Al Gharafa defeated Umm Salal 1-0, while Al Rayyan overcame Al Kharaitiyat 2-0.
The triumph will no doubt boost the confidence of Al Gharafa as they gear up to make a strong statement in the second phase of QNB Stars League, where they are in the seventh position with only 11 points. The first title in five years shows that the team is shaping up well under French coach Jean Fernandez. It may be recalled that they had started the season with almost 15 new players.
It will also lift the spirits of The Cheetahs in the other domestic cup competitions as well as AFC Champions League.
Al Gharafa will go into a play-off with Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor in Doha on January 30 in the AFC Champions League. If they win, they will be clubbed in Group A alongside the UAE’s Al Jazira, Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli and Iran’s Tractorsasi.
Qatar’s other representatives in the premier continental competition Al Duhail, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan are drawn into Group A, B and C respectively.
In hindsight, the Sixth QSL Cup served its purpose to a great extent because it is crucial that young players get as many playing minutes as possible, thereby providing their clubs and the Qatar national team with a wider player pool to choose from, especially since the country is gearing up to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
And many youngsters grabbed the opportunities with both hands. Take the case of ultimate champions Al Gharafa. It was upcoming players who scored for them in the fifth round and semifinal.
While Al Duhail, Al Sadd and Al Sailiya, the first, second and third side in the QNB Stars League table respectively fumbled and fell by the wayside, only second-placed Al Rayyan and fifth-placed Umm Salal advanced past the group stage.
The QSL Cup’s first two rounds and then the third and fourth were played during international breaks, so Al Duhail and A Sadd missed their foreign professional. Al Sadd were also hit by injuries to key players. And most sides gave chances to reserve players.
Al Kharaitiyat still topped the scoring chart with 18 goals, followed by Al Rayyan (17), Al Duhail (16) and Al Gharafa (14).
Al Duhail’s 8-0 win over Al Khor was the highest-margin victory. Next came Al Kharaitiyat’s 6-1 rout of Qatar SC. Both were in Round 5.
The 4-4 draw played out between Al Duhail and Al Kharaitiyat in Round 3 and Al Arabi’s 5-4 verdict over Al Sadd in Round 4 were also high-scoring matches.
QSL CUP ROLL OF HONOUR
2009 — Al Gharafa bt Al Ahli 5-0 in final
2010 — Al Sadd bt Umm Salal 1-0 in final
2011 — Al Wakrah bt Al Kharaitiyat 10-9 in shoot-out in final
2012 — El Jaish bt Al Arabi 2-0 in final
2013 — Qatar SC bt Al Sadd 3-1 in final
2017 — Al Gharafa bt Al Rayyan 3-2 in final