Big guns get wake-up calls as QSL kicks off in style
Al Sadd and Duhail forced to work hard for victory as lower-ranked teams show their mettle in the first round.
Top title contenders received rude wake-up calls from less-fancied opponents as Qatar Stars League got off to a compelling start with two intense contests on Wednesday.
Al Sadd, the defending champions, had to use all their expertise to unlock promoted side Al Wakrah’s defence before they won with a 4-1 scoreline, while Duhail Sports Club snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by scoring two goals in the dying minutes, against Qatar Sports Club.
On the eve of the league, coaches were of the opinion this would be the toughest QSL in years and their voices almost echoed back on the turf. Sadd and Duhail were the ones who felt the heat even in cooling technology-aided environs.
“It was a tough match against a tough team. They’ve a good coach who has put together a well-organised side. We struggled in the first half.” Xavi Fernandez
At the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Al Sadd coach Xavi Fernandez admitted his team had endured a tough test from Wakrah, who were reduced to 10 men pretty early in the game.
“It was a tough match against a tough team. They’ve a good coach who has put together a well-organised side. We struggled in the first half,” admitted the Spaniard.
Xavi was left wondering what would have been the outcome had Wakrah not been reduced to 10 men.
“The sending off gave us an advantage, especially in the second half as we were 11 against 10,” he said.
Sadd had to wait till the 74th minute to break the deadlock after the scores were level at 1-1 by the 26th minute.
Wakrah, under Spanish coach Marquez Lopez, showed a positive attitude before physical strain began to take its toll. Xavi praised the spirit of the promoted team and warned that they could prove a tough opposition in future.
“It’ll be tough to beat Wakrah in the league,” he said.
Sadd’s next fixture is against Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia, in the Asian Champions League on Monday. “This was a good test for the upcoming game. It’ll be a difficult match in an intense atmosphere,” he said.
Akram Afif’s back injury is a worry for Xavi, who pulled out the player as early as in the 35th minute.
“He’ll undergo medical tests to ascertain the extent of his injury. I took him off to preserve him, he’s an important player,” said Xavi.
Duhail, playing at the Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah, stared at what looked a certain defeat when they trailed 0-1 till the 88th minute against Qatar Sports Club.
Under new coach Carlos Alos Ferrer, Qatar were on the verge of pulling off an upset when Youssef Msakni, coming on as a substitute, pounced on a rebound to fire in Duhail’s equaliser.
The Emir Cup champions then heaved a sigh of relief as Almoez Ali beat the Qatar goalkeeper with a long-range effort in injury time.
Duhail coach Rui Faria insisted his team deserved the victory, pointing at the chances his team missed before they struck two goals in quick succession towards the end.
“It was a difficult match, but we were able to win thanks to our players’ fighting spirit,” said Faria.
The Portuguese said he was looking forward to the break before the next round.
“We played four games in a short time, placing big demands on the players, both physically and mentally. They’ll regain their energies by the time the next match comes along,” he concluded.