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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Al Sadd post fourth win in a row to soar to the top

Xavi Hernandez' men defeat a fighting Al Sailiya 3-1 in the deferred third-round QSL game.
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Al Sadd’s Ali Asad scores his team’s third goal against Al Sailiya in their QSL match at the Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Thriving on two penalties on either side of half-time, Al Sadd soared to the top of the Qatar Stars League table on Tuesday, defeating a dogged Al Sailiya 3-1 at the Al Janoub Stadium.

In the deferred third-round match, Sadd were far from fluent but with Sailiya unable to grab their opportunities, the defending champions walked out with three points. The only team with an all-win record, Sadd have 12 points after four rounds, with Al Arabi and Al Gharafa, on 10 points, placed second and third.

Xavi Hernandez’s men struck in the eighth minute through Baghdad Bounedjah’s spot-kick and protected that lead for long periods before a dull game spurted to life in the final 20 minutes. Akram Afif, through another penalty, and Ali Asad added two more goals to provide a touch of respectability to the champions’ victory.

Perhaps with the AFC Champions League semifinals against Al Hilal (Oct 1) in mind, Xavi benched Hassan Al Haydos and also rested a sick Abdelkarim Hassan. Their absence had an effect on the Sadd play, with their attack lacking teeth, however much Afif and Bounedjah tried.

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Al Sadd’s Ali Asad celebrates with Baghdad Bounedjah after scoring his team’s third goal against Al Sailiya SC. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Bounedjah scored the first Sadd goal in the eighth minute after VAR spotted an infringement in the penalty area. Referee Khamis Al Marri, seeking the help of technology, found a foul on Boualem Khoukhi by Sailiya captain Magdi Abdalla and the Algerian striker was spot on with his kick.

Sadd couldn’t kick on from then on and Sailiya missed several chances to draw level. The best of them came Karim Ansari’s way when he picked up a through pass from Boussoufa Mbark and sprinted ahead, only to find his shot hitting the post.

George Kwesi and Boussoufa also were off target with their headers as Sadd went to the break with a narrow advantage. Sailiya were on top at the start of the second half too but with Al Haydos coming on as substitute in the 60thminute, things began to change, with Sadd striking two more goals in a five-minute period.

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Al Sailiya’s Nadir Belhadj and Al Sadd’s Hamid Ismaeil in action.
IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Afif was fouled by Abdalla leading to another penalty for Sadd in the 79thminute. Afif converted with a flourish to make it 2-0. Four minutes later, substitute Asad tapped home Bounedjah’s cross from the right to put Sadd in a commanding position.

Some lax defending by the Wolves then allowed Karim Ansari to pull one back as he beat the offside trap to fire home Sailiya’s first goal in the 84thminute. Ansari was again on target in the 89thminute but VAR intervened and prompted a marginal offside call from Al Marri.

A 3-1 scoreline at the final whistle looked a bit harsh on Sailiya, who are ninth with four points while Sadd are sitting pretty despite not being at the top of their game.

Speaking after the match, Xavi said his team should have played better. “We’re happy that we’re leaders and we haven’t conceded any points till now. But we could’ve played much better and we need to do that to win the next games,” he said.

The Spanish legend also urged his team to keep focus till the end. “But for that offside call, the score would have been 3-2. We have to be focused till the referee blows the final whistle,” he said.