THE goalless draw against Umm Salal was a bolt from the blue for Al Sadd, who dropped off the perch and conceded a two-point lead to Lekhwiya in the Qatar Stars League last week.
The former champions were handed a lifeline with a penalty in added time after Ali Asad was brought down in the box, but someone as cool as Hassan Al Haidous saw his shot ricocheting off the right post. The Qatar international drilled the ball home on the rebound, but referee Khamis Mohammed Al Marri rightly disallowed the goal.
The pressure was palpable as Sadd never looked the side who had registered big wins in their recent matches. It was a game they should have won, but Jesualdo Ferreira’s men failed to assert themselves.
“This was the first match where we didn’t score. We’re not happy with our performance. Had we scored early, things would’ve been easier as Umm Salal came with a defensive approach,” said Ferreira. “We could’ve scored, but we gave them a lot of confidence and were hesitant even with the penalty.”
The competition will have a month-long break due to the national team’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, and Ferreira will have to adopt a different strategy when they face defending champions Al Rayyan on April 2.
The Portuguese vowed to fight back and help the club win the league shield which they last claimed in 2012-13 under Moroccan Housseine Amouta.
“We’ve a month-long break, but we’ll fight to win the league,” he added.
Sadd started on a confident note and Umm Salal keeper Essa Shabaan had to be vigilant to keep out a powerful shot by Al Haidous in the fourth minute while Abdulkarim Hassan’s attempt flew over the bar in the 13th.
Sadd created plenty of openings as the match progressed, but Umm Salal proved stocky and crowded the defence to deny them a close look at the goal. It was a simple ploy which frustrated them and tied down in-form striker Baghdad Bounedjah, who has scored 21 goals in the tournament.
Sadd have a mountain to climb in the remaining three rounds, and have to pull up their socks as they will also be up against El Jaish and in-form Al Sailiya.
Lekhwiya should have it relatively easier as they are up against Al Ahli and Al Shahaniya after meeting Jaish.
A dispirited performance like this have surely diminished their chances and Lekhwiya are already eyeing to wrap up the title which they won in the previous season.