Afif sparkles as Sadd work their way past Umm Salal
Intro: The wily midfielder nets one goal and sets up another as defending champions post third straight win.
Playing at their own pace, Al Sadd were not at their very best, but they still outgunned Umm Salal 2-1 to make a winning return to the Qatar Stars League on Friday.
The defending champions had missed the third-round action due to their Asian Champions League engagement and in their absence, Al Arabi and Al Gharafa had seized the top positions. Sadd showed they were in no mood to cede territory, notching their third straight win.
Faced with a crowded calendar, Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez kept Nam Tae-Hee, Woo Young Jung and Tarik Salman on the bench. That might have left their defence a bit vulnerable, but the Spaniard had the belief that the class in their attack would carry his team through.
And that is exactly what happened. Umm Salal sparkled in patches and created a clutch of chances, but Sadd won the big moments. Raul Caneda’s men took the lead through captain Yannick Sagbo in the 10th minute before goals from Akram Afif (20th
and Baghdad Bounedjah (32nd-penalty) restored normal order at the Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah.
Sadd started in their customary calm manner, but Umm Salal pricked their pride with Sagbo’s strike. Mahmoud Kamal Al Mawas created the goal with his perseverance on the right flank, beating Salem Al Hajri’s feeble challenge and pulling the ball back for Sagbo to fire in, with the ball going in off Saad Al Sheeb.
Sadd didn’t panic as Afif got their attack going and got the equaliser 10 minutes later, exchanging passes with Hassan Al Haydos and running into the penalty area to place the ball in. Umm Salal expected an offside call, but none was forthcoming.
Afif also paved the way for the second goal. He found Bounedjah with a pass from the left, but the Algerian was clumsily tackled by Adil Rhaili, prompting referee Mohammed Al Shammari to award a penalty. Bounedjah himself took the spot-kick, and easily converted it.
Sadd pressed for a third goal before half-time, but Yazan Naim Sheikh in the Umm Salal goal produced a couple of smart saves to deny Afif and Gabriel Luis.
Sagbo-Al Mawas combine flourished occasionally to keep Umm Salal going in the second half, but they could not grab their chances.
Largely, the game remained in Sadd’s control as Xavi brought in Nam and Jung midway through to bolster the midfield. A third goal, though, eluded them, but three good points landed in their bag. With nine points, Sadd are third on the table, one point behind Al Arabi and Al Gharafa, but with a game on hand.
In the second match of the day, Al Sailiya notched their first win, inflicting on Qatar Sports Club their fourth straight defeat.
At the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Serigne Mbodji headed in an Ahmed Al Menhali cross in the 89thminute to snatch a 1-0 verdict for Sailiya.
Qatar SC had been reduced to ten men four minutes earlier, Mehdi Barrahma getting a red card from referee Hamad Al Subaie for stamping on Ghanem Al Qahthani’s ankle.
Sailiya, who have played three games, are on four points while Qatar are yet to open their account.