Brahimi dazzles as Al Rayyan edge past Al Arabi
Lions notch 2-1 win to move to the top of the table; Shahania, Sailiya draw goalless.
Yacine Brahimi sparked a superb Al Rayyan revival as the Lions edged a fighting Al Arabi 2-1 to move to the top of the table in the Qatar Stars League on Friday, making a statement of intent at the Al Arabi Stadium.
Just as Al Arabi seemed to be gaining command over the match with a 1-0 lead, Brahimi slotted home the equaliser and his lively presence up front made a big difference in the eventual scoreline as Rayyan posted their fourth win in a row.
More than 10,000 fans turned up to see the big match in Qatar football and the teams did not disappoint them, serving up an entertaining affair. Arabi had their chances to sway it their way but Rayyan were just a bit better, with Gabriel Mercado scoring their second goal.
With Duhail playing their eighth round match on Sunday, Rayyan occupy the top spot with 18 points while for Arabi, it was their second straight defeat and they stay fourth with 13 points, but with a game on hand.
“Every team in the world would love to have a player like Brahimi,” said Arabi coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, praising the Algerian forward who was at the heart of Rayyan’s play. He also praised his rivals, terming Rayyan as the best team in Qatar now.
Rayyan though had to work their way into the match after a setback midway in the first half.
They had the edge in the early part, with Brahimi and Tabata the danger men. Tabata, with his bag of skills and ability to fire from long range, especially was a threat.
The Rayyan captain tested Gregory Gomis but the Arabi goalkeeper showed good reflexes to make a clean save. Another Tabata special, off a free-kick then hit the vertical, before Arabi began to make their presence felt.
Crosses from the flanks had been their lifeblood but they lacked precision initially. After the drinks break in the first half, there was more fire, purpose and direction in their attack. Fahad Younis in the Rayyan goal kept a Birkir Bjarnason header off a corner and then Pierre Lasogga’s fierce shot went wide after taking a deflection.
The pressure was mounting on Rayyan and they finally cracked in the 40th minute. Younis tipped over a superb free-kick from Lasogga, conceding a corner. Marc Martinez’s corner was headed down by Lasogga and Hamdi Harbaoui, lurking in the six-yard box, flicked it home in a flash.
Before the celebrations died down in the stands, Rayyan were level. And it was that man Brahimi doing the damage again. Picking a clearance from the defence, the Algerian weaved in beautifully from the left and his shot was powerful enough to beat Gomis to the near post.
In a brilliant bit of attacking play, Rayyan then nearly took the lead close to half-time, when Tabata’s superb left-footer hit the crossbar.
Arabi started the second half well, with Lasogga and Yusuf Abdurisag coming close, but Rayyan soon rebuffed them. Brahimi and Tabata were a delight to watch, putting the Arabi defence under constant pressure. Tabata’s corner opened the way to the second Rayyan goal in the 76th minute. Substitute Sebastian Sorio headed it down and as it came off the post, Mercado bulged the net with a firm shot.
Arabi attacked and created chances too but could not finish off the moves. Their side of the stadium soon became silent and mobile phones lit up the Rayyan segment. Their team had won an important battle and that too in their rivals’ backyard. An argument between Brahimi and Arabi’s Musab Mohammed threatened to spoil the celebrations but they were separated on time as the party began in the Rayyan camp.
The first match of the day, between Al Shahania and Al Sailiya, ended in a goalless draw at the Al Ahli Stadium. Shahania stayed rooted at the bottom with three points while Sailiya are eighth with 11 points.