QATAR Sports Club, nicknamed the Kings, returned to the top flight after seeing off Al Shahaniya 1-0 in the relegation play-off at the Lekhwiya Stadium last week.
Following a series of gritty performances in the Qatar Stars League, Shahaniya had started as favourites against Qatar SC, who had finished as runners-up in the Second Division and crashed out in the first round of the ongoing Emir’s Cup. But all that did not count as Qatar SC played a defensive game and caught their rivals on the counter-attack.
Ibrahim Gamal made the difference, scoring the all-important goal soon after the hour mark. The right winger made an impressive run on the right and surged clear of three players before sending a cross towards the goal. The ball fell into the net past keeper Jassim Adil, who completely missed its flight.
Shahaniya, who were insipid until conceding the goal, started fighting with renewed vigour after coach Igor Stimac brought on attackers Fahad Khalfan, Saud Al Khallaqi and Yousef Hani Ballan. But they could not find the equaliser despite creating almost half-a-dozen chances.
The game turned really ugly towards the end and referee Jonas Eriksson had to show red cards to Qatar SC’s Mohammed Al Robeai and Ali Awad as well as Shahaniya’s Eduardo Santos deep into injury time.
Abdullah Mubarak, who took over Qatar SC’s coaching reins from Romanian Aurel Ticleanu midway through the competition, said their progress was a victory for all Qatari coaches.
“It was a victory for all Qatari coaches. We’ve a lot of capabilities. The only thing is that we’ve to be given chance and more time,” said Abdullah.
“We had followed Shahaniya’s QSL campaign towards its end. We decided to adopt a tactical system which best suited our style and made the most of it. Our players showed determination. I thank the players, coaches, support staff and officials, especially team manager Ali Al Mannai, for all efforts,” said the coach, who added that his decision about his future at Shahaniya’s helm next season rested with the management.
Shahaniya coach Stimac insisted they were not complacent.
“I don’t think so. We were calm and didn’t allow anything to disturb our preparations. But in the first 45 minutes, we found ourselves in a totally different position from the league games as Qatar SC defended deep. If you want to play teams like that, you need to pass the ball quickly. But we didn’t do anything,” said Stimac.
“After conceding that silly goal, there was no time for calculation. We put all our focus, and took more risks trying to put some quality crosses into the box. We couldn’t do that, still we created situations to score two-three goals. But it wasn’t our day,” said the Croat.
The former West Ham defender said Shahaniya had prepared themselves for the match in advance.
“We knew something like this could happen. Everybody knew that Jaish were going to be merged with Lekhwiya, and we would be going into the play-off. So we were living and working for this day, keeping our 12th position and waiting for the official confirmation from the federation. So I don’t see any reason,” added Stimac.