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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Al Sadd made to sweat for victory by Al Wakrah in QSL opener

Defending champions register a 4-1 victory after a hard-fought tussle while Duhail scrape past Qatar SC 2-1.
Al Sadd Players Celebrate Their Victory Over Al Wakrah In The Opening Match Of The 2019 20 Qsl Season At The Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium In Al Sadd On Wednesday. Sadd Won 4 1
Al Sadd players celebrate their victory over Al Wakrah in the opening match of the 2019-20 QSL season at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al Sadd on Wednesday. Sadd won 4-1 IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Al Sadd were made to sweat by a 10-man Al Wakrah before the defending champions prevailed 4-1 while Duhail Sports Club escaped to a 2-1 win over Qatar Sports Club on the opening night of the Qatar Stars League on Wednesday.

At the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, hosts Al Sadd were kept at bay for a prolonged period by the promoted outfit Wakrah, even though the scoreline might portray a romp for Xavi Hernandez’s men.

Playing with a man short, after their defender Ali Karami was shown a direct red card in the 17thminute, Wakrah did well to nullify an early goal advantage for Sadd. But it was always going to be an arduous task and their resolve finally melted under sustained Sadd pressure late in the second half.

Al Sadd’s Abdelkareem Hassan And Al Wakrah’s Mohammed Benyettou Fight For The Ball. Photo Vinod Divakaran.
Al Sadd’s Abdelkareem Hassan and Al Wakrah’s Mohammed Benyettou fight for the ball. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Wakrah seemed in for some punishment when Abdulaziz Al Ansari powered Sadd ahead in the ninth minute, capitalising on a fine lob forward from Akram Afif in the midfield. The visitors’ plight worsened when Ali Karami was ejected by referee Nayef Al Kadri after consultations with VAR, for hacking down a goal-bound Afif from behind.

But Marquez Lopez’s men faced the crisis with determination. And they showed they will not be pushovers, getting the equaliser in the 26thminute. Cristian Prieto sent in a lovely cross, beating the defence with a darting run on the right, which was steered home by Mohamed Benyettou with a firm shot.

Xavi had to alter his plans after Afif complained of back pain and the Spaniard brought in Hassan Al Haydos in the 35thminute. Even as Wakrah held firm, Haydos combined with Al Ansari and Ali Assad to pile the pressure in the second half.

However, Wakrah, with some stodgy defending and desperate goalkeeping from Saoud Al Khater, continued to frustrate them until the 74th minute when Sadd’s quick passing moves on the right flank finally paid off.

Al Ansari played a pass with Haydos and charged into the penalty area before pulling the ball back to the middle, beating Al Khater. At the far side, Abdelkareem Hassan bulged the net with a superb left-footed drive.

Al Sadd’s Abdelkareem Hassan and Al Wakrah’s Mohammed Benyettou fight for the ball. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran
Al Sadd’s Abdelkareem Hassan, centre, celebrates with coach Xavi Hernandez after scoring against Al Wakrah IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

With Wakrah’s energy reserves fast depleting, the contest died a swift death from then on. Substitute Ahmed Sayyar was the beneficiary in the end against a struggling defence, with two quick goals, in the 84th and 89th minutes.

The final whistle was a relief to Wakrah and also to Sadd, who now travel to Saudi Arabia to face Al Nassr in the AFC Champions League on August 26. They leave with the realisation that they have to improve fast to challenge the Saudi outfit in the quarterfinal.

In the other match of the night at the Al Janoub Stadium, in Wakrah, Duhail survived a real scare against Qatar SC, who were 11th last season.
Qatar led by a 60th-minute goal from Junior Kalonji, but Youssef Msakni equalised for Duhail in the 88th and Almoez Ali struck the winner in injury time for the last year’s runners-up.