Gharafa edge past Arabi; Duhail back on top
Cheetahs bounce back into contention as Hanni strikes the winner; Muntari nets for Red Knights.
Al Gharafa put behind their recent setbacks in the Qatar Stars League with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Al Arabi to power to the third position on Sunday.
In an entertaining game at the Al Arabi Stadium, Gharafa got the vital goal through Sofiane Hanni in the 51st minute to end Arabi’s unbeaten run in the league. After a draw and a defeat in their last two matches, it was an important result for the Cheetahs.
With 15 points, Gharafa are just one point behind second-placed Al Rayyan after seven rounds. Significantly, they also produced an improved performance defensively, delighting their coach Slavisa Jokanovic.
Duhail Sports Club head the table with 17 points, having regained the top spot with a 1-0 win over Umm Salal earlier in the day at the same venue.
- Duhail SC 1 (Mohamed Muntari 65th) bt Umm Salal 0
- Al Gharafa 1 (Sofiane Hanni 51st) bt Al Arabi 0
Arabi had a chance to consolidate their second position in the day’s second match, but they lacked sharpness in attack, with their crosses lacking precision. They surely missed Aaron Gunnarsson in the midfield, with the Iceland player recuperating after an ankle surgery.
Gharafa, with Adlane Guedioura and Koo Ja-Cheol controlling the midfield, wrested control of the play early. Arabi were lucky not to concede a goal in that period as Moayad Hassan’s deflected shot came back off the post. Soon after, Hassan’s cross from the left rolled across the goalmouth with no takers.
At the other end, Arabi came close midway through the first half when a Mohamed El Neel header was brilliantly kept out by Gharafa goalkeeper Qasem Burhan.
Gharafa then spurned a great chance to go up as Ahmed Alaaeldin missed a penalty six minutes from half-time. The Qatari international, advancing down the right wing, was brought down by Fahad Ali Obaid, prompting referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim to whistle for the penalty.
Alaeeldin himself took the kick, going for an audacious panenka but it hit the crossbar and bounced back into play. The Al Gharafa forward again went for the spectacular, connecting the rebound with a back volley that went wide. Arabi goalkeeper Gregory Gomis was not impressed and he conveyed it to a dejected Alaaeldin, earning himself a yellow card.
Six minutes into the second half, Alaaeldin got his chance to give it back. Gomis could only get a hand to a cross from Othman Al Yahri on the right and behind him, Hanni firmly stabbed home the loose ball. Alaaeldin, not surprisingly, was the one celebrating the most, and that too, right under the face of the goalkeeper.
Try as they did, Arabi could not conjure a reply. Gharafa defended well to take home three good points, not allowing much room for the Arabi forwards, while long-range efforts from Musab Mohammed and Yusuf Abdurisag were off the target. After their first loss, Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men are now fourth with 13 points.
In the first match, Duhail got the decisive goal in the 65th minute through Mohamed Muntari. The Duhail forward slammed home from inside the penalty area after Umm Salal goalkeeper Yazan Naim had barged out to parry a corner. It was Duhail’s fifth win in seven matches and along with Al Rayyan, they are the only unbeaten sides in the league so far.