FOUR goals by three different scorers, a clean slate and dominant performance of attacking football. Former champions Al Sadd could not have hoped for a better start to their Qatar Stars League campaign as they routed new-look Al Kharaitiyat 4-0 last week.
A twin strike by Algerian forward Baghdad Bounedjgah (25th and second-half stoppage time) as well as efforts from Hassan Al Haidous (62nd) and Ali Asad (77th) ensured Sadd breezed past Kharaitiyat, who had recruited nine new players in the pre-season and were eager for a convincing start. But Amar Osim’s men surrendered meekly, with their morale dented.
Sadd started with a 4-1-4-1 formation as coach Jesualdo Ferreira packed the midfield with attack-minded players. Xavi Hernandez started in the centre and Khalfan Ibrahim beside him while new Algerian recruit Jugurtha Hamroun and Hassan Al Haidous moved along the wings.
What followed was an attractive, short-passing game and it looked as if the Portuguese had weaved his strategy around the passing strengths of Xavi. The former Barcelona captain, who looked comfortable from the start with his captain’s armband in striking pink, made the difference in the 25th when he picked out Baghdad inside the box with a brilliant dipping pass. The 24-year-old controlled the ball on his chest and drove it into the net.
It was Sadd all the way in the first half, but Kharaitiyat, who relied mostly on the counter-attacking game, came back after resumption with an intention to equalise. However, they found it hard to get into the rival box, with Congolese striker Jeremy Bokila lacking support and feed. Osim must have also expected more from his No.10 Abdelmoula Berrabeh, who looked a bit fragile while tackling challenges.
The Bosnian coach would also want midfielder Driss Fotouhi to join the team soon after the Indonesian player of Moroccan origin was stopped by the Qatar Football Association in order to verify his nationality documents.
Kharaitiyat rued their luck when Bokila had a goal disallowed for offside in the 47th. Sadd regrouped and swung the momentum back in their favour, with Al Haidous finding the net after cleverly breaching an off-side trap to run on to a perfectly-weighed scoop from Hamroun.
Ali Asad, who came on as a 65th-minute substitute, then beat keeper Ahmed Sufiyan at the near post with his trademark finish. He played a one-two with Al Haidous on the right before cutting in to score.
Baghdad completed the rout when young right-back Hossam Kamal, who started ahead of Musab Kamal and seasoned Hamad Ismail, ran up to the byline and pulled the ball back for him.
“We’ll teach Rayyan a lesson,” a fan commented while relishing Sadd’s attacking football. The win in the opener had all ingredients to make him happy, but will Ferreira be able to keep the same starting line-up against stronger opponents is one question. He may opt for a five-man defensive line once injured left-back Abdulkarim Hassan is fit. Still, holding midfielder Mohammed Kassola may need more support in the middle.