Al Arabi, Al Gharafa notch battling wins to stay ahead
El Neel steals show for Arabi against Shahania while Cheetahs strike form late to sink Al Ahli.
Al Arabi and Al Gharafa continued their absorbing chase of the top spot on the Qatar Stars League (QSL) table, both notching hard-fought victories to occupy the first two places after their fourth round matches on Thursday.
The early leaders are level on 10 points but Arabi, who edged Al Shahania 2-1 in the first match of the day, are ahead by virtue of having scored more goals.
Gharafa defeated Al Ahli 3-1 in the second game.
Mohamed Salah El Neel was the star for Arabi, netting both their goals at the Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah. It included perhaps the fastest goal in QSL history, a strike in the eighth second that embarrassed Shahania goalkeeper Khalifa Al Dosari.
Al Gharafa had to really step it up after a lacklustre first half at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al Sadd. A red card to Al Ahli’s Mohamad Abdulnaser Al Abbasi in the 73rd minute also helped their cause in a strange game of contrasting halves.
Al Ahli controlled the first and took the lead in the 11th minute. A forward pass from Mohamed Diame in the centre caught the Gharafa defence napping, allowing Abdelrahman Mohamed to dash forward and beat Qasem Burhan in the goal.
Ahli protected the lead with some nice play and should have made it 2-0 before half-time, but for a fumble by Abel Mathias, who shot wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Gharafa carried little attacking threat in the first session, but they came out with full force in the second. The equaliser came within two minutes of restart in fortuitous circumstances, with a miscued volley by Sofiane Hanni bouncing awkwardly over goalkeeper Ivanildo Rodrigues and going in after hitting the underside of the crosspiece.
Hanni and Ahmed Alaaeldin kept troubling the Ahli defence and Al Abbasi received his second yellow card from referee Salman Falahi for a foul on Alaaeldin. Soon after, Gharafa went ahead, Alaaeldin firing home a rebound in the 76th minute after Othman Al Yahri’s shot had come off defender Jasem Abdulaziz.
Alaaeldin, who a fine match for him personally, struck again a minute later, to ruin Al Ahli’s night. He ran hard to control a pass from the midfield and slotted the ball past Rodrigues, who advanced in vain.
Arabi owed a lot to the opportunism of El Neel for their third win in four matches. Soon after kick-off, the youngster sprinted forward chasing a lob from his own half. Al Dosari, having advanced, let the ball bounce over him and El Neel ran ahead to place the ball home.
To their credit, Shahania, without a win yet, fought hard and even equalised, thanks to a penalty converted by Ramin Rezaeian in the 74th minute. VAR had spotted a foul on Rezaeian inside the area, leading to the spot-kick.
Shahania seemed set for their first point when Arabi cashed in on a defensive lapse to snatch their second goal, through El Neel again. Hamdi Harbaoui’s cross from the right was intended for Pierre Lasogga, but he left it for an unmarked El Neel on the far side to tap in. The 89th-minute goal broke Shahania’s back and increased Arabi’s tally to 10 points.