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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Duhail send warning with exciting second-half show

Rui Faria’s men could emerge as a real threat after tightening their spot atop the QSL table with win over Al Gharafa.
Duhail Gharafa Mohammed Muntari Almahdi Ali Mukhtar
Mohammed Muntari (left) of Duhail tries to move past Almahdi Ali Mukhtar of Al Gharafa in their QSL match on Saturday. Photo: Duhail SC

Duhail Sports Club hardly looked a side holding the top spot on the Qatar Stars League table for the first 45 minutes of their game against Al Gharafa. But in the next 45, the Red Knights showed what an attacking and exciting force they could be.

Duhail fully deserved their 2-1 win on Saturday, but it required some tinkering to their combination at half-time by their coach Rui Faria. The team on view in the second half was vastly different from the side that sleepwalked through the first period, with only some good defending saving them from falling behind.

Two well-constructed goals then stood testimony to Duhail’s domination of the second half as they maintained their two-point advantage at the top from nearest rivals Al Rayyan (18 points) from eight matches. The two teams are yet to lose this season in the league, but despite losing to Rayyan, defending champions Al Sadd are not too far behind with 15 points, that too from only six games.

Strangely, Duhail do not yet have the aura of the league leaders. Perhaps, their early struggles and injuries have played a part in that. But they deserve credit for hanging on during tough times. They are also yet to find the right combination, but after the win against Gharafa, Faria certainly would have received a clearer picture on what the future might hold.

Faria attributed their diffident display in the first half to nerves.

“We didn’t begin the match in a good way and it was clear that the players were nervous,” he said at the post-match press conference. “In the second half, we were able to create many opportunities because of the changes we made.”

Youssef Msakni stepped in for Khaled Mohammed and Ismaeel Mohammad replaced Mohammed Musa to bring life to the Duhail attack in the second half. Edmilson also started to operate with more freedom and the Duhail frontline carried constant threat of a goal. A snap Sofiane Hanni goal set them back, but it was not a surprise they were able to hit back with two fine goals from Mohammed Muntari and Edmilson. The desperation they showed was similar to their first match against Qatar SC, when they recovered late to record a 2-1 win.

Faria admitted his team was a bit late in hitting the straps. In the previous game against Umm Salal too Duhail had to wait till the 66th minute to find the only goal of the game.

“Not starting well could prove to be dangerous, but we were up against a well-organised opponent on this day,” said Faria.

The Portuguese coach felt it was too early to say which way the league would swing but his main rivals, Al Sadd, showed they were ready for a fight when they beat Al Ahli 2-1, also on Saturday. Sadd’s AFC Champions League engagements are over and they can now focus on the league, at least until the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

Xavi Hernandez’s men looked weary in the second half against Al Ahli, but they have kept the chase alive, and with two games on hand, the Wolves could be expected to step it up.

A rung above in second position, Al Rayyan are improving with every round. They will also have a strong say in the title chase in the coming weeks.

Sadd are next up for Duhail – it will be their fourth clash this season, with the Wolves having won two of the previous three. More organised in defence now, Duhail will want a reversal of fortunes in next Saturday’s match as exciting times loom for QSL.