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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Surprise package Al Khor turn on the power

The draw against Al Sailiya is a win of sorts for Omar Najhi's men
Al Sailiya's Serine Mbodji (right) Foils Al Khor's Tiago Bezerra In The Qatar Stars League Match On Thursday
Al Sailiya’s Serine Mbodji (right) foils Al Khor’s Tiago Bezerra in the Qatar Stars League match on Thursday. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

With a little bit of luck, Al Khor could have created the first upset of the Qatar Stars League on Thursday night.

After Qatar Sports Club gave a mighty scare to Duhail Sports Club on the opening day, Omar Najhi’s Al Khor fought on level terms on Thursday against another top outfit, Al Sailiya, before honours were shared at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.

The 1-1 draw further strengthened the feeling that it won’t be easy for the fancied teams this season. After four matches, Al Sadd still lead the table, followed by Al Gharafa and Duhail but the script from here on could see some surprises.

Al Sailiya's Karim Ansari (left) Tries To Move Past Robert Melki Of Al Khor
Al Sailiya’s Karim Ansari (left) tries to move past Robert Melki of Al Khor. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Al Sailiya coach Sami Trabelsi admitted Al Khor had caught his men by surprise. “Al Khor were the better team, they were fast, they had more chances, they didn’t give many opportunities to us,” said the coach.

He went as far as to say that his team, third last season, did not even deserve a draw. “We didn’t deserve one point, I am not at all happy with our performance,” he said.

Trabelsi’s grim expression was in sharp contrast to the smiling countenance of his opposite number. Al Khor are used to losing their opening games and Omar Najhi’s men had bucked the trend by making a mark on the points table early.

Al Khor had lost both their league games to Al Sailiya last season but the energy and enterprise they displayed on Thursday showed they will be a different proposition this season. Moroccan Ahmed Hammoudan and Brazilian Tiago Bezerra, aided by Robert Melki, played with attacking intent from the beginning. But for a penalty that came almost against the run of play, things could have panned out differently.

The foul on Sailiya’s Abdulqadir Adam by Khaled Hassan was obvious on the VAR replays, with the injured player’s screams echoing around the largely empty stadium. Karim Ansari was bang on with his penalty and Sailiya enjoyed a brief advantage they didn’t seem capable of earning till that point. The equaliser wasn’t as convincing, with the referee Khamil Al-Marri not bothering to consult VAR after pointing to the spot, convinced that Ahmed Al-Menhali had fouled Hammoudan. Bezerra’s power decided the spot-kick’s outcome, with the ball going in off goalkeeper Khalifa Nidaye’s hand.

Khor had a couple of near misses in the second half as Sailiya scrambled to keep their goal intact, often with last minute saves. Trabelsi’s men, in contrast, lacked teeth in attack, a fact underlined by the coach in his post-match comments. “We lacked a good attacker and also a good playmaker,” he said.

A delighted Najhi said he was determined to overcome Al Khor’s starting woes. “I told my players that we have to start well. Many times in the past, we had lost opening games and that had an effect on the subsequent matches. This time, we did really well. We’ve prepared hard and now can look forward to doing well in the coming games. I am really happy with this result.”