THE general feeling leading up to last week’s marquee fixture was that champions Al Rayyan would dictate terms to Lekhwiya. It was not just because coach Michael Laudrup has the measure of the Cops, having spent a season with them, but his rival Djamel Belmadi had most first-team players away on national-team duty while preparing for it.
But as it turned out, Lekhwiya looked the better of the lot. Despite falling behind a second time in the 59th minute and being reduced to 10 men in the 69th, losing Mohammed Tresor to a second yellow card, Belmadi’s men fought their way back into the game and walked away with a deserving point.
Moroccan striker Youssef El Arabi’s last-gasp equaliser in the 2-2 draw would have been the fitting end to such a big fixture had the teams showed a bit more intensity, precision and quality in passing. It did not quite live up to the hype.
Rodrigo Tabata put Rayyan ahead by converting a penalty in the 31st after Tresor brought down Sergio Garcia inside the area.
Luiz Martin, left unmarked on the right, swept the ball home in the 43rd to draw parity. Abdulrahman Al Harazi restored the Lions’ lead in the 59th when he intercepted a rival move near half line, went up through the middle and slotted home.
Tresor went out after earning the wrath of referee Sandro Scharer for dissent, handing rivals the numerical advantage. But Rayyan ran out of steam and struggled to maintain possession despite Laudrup, in a rare sight, screaming to his men to keep the ball.
Rayyan had shown a lot of promise in their previous fixture against Al Ahli, but almost every player, except Tabata and Sebastian Soria, suffered cramps, raising serious concerns about their fitness levels. Laudrup opted for a fresh pair of legs by fielding Abdulhameed Enad in place of Al Harazi, their best player in the match, but it was the former who conceded possession, resulting in the late equaliser.
“We played better with 11 against 11 than against 10,” said Laudrup after the match. He expressed disappointment at not killing the game as Soria and Tabata both missed a couple of sitters, but more with their inability to get the basics right at the death.
Belmadi said a defeat would have
been too cruel a result for his side.
“We deserved full points as we had control over most part of the game. It would’ve been unfair had we not taken home one point,” said Belmadi.
After Al Sadd too dropped points by playing out a 1-1 draw with bottom side Al Wakrah, El Jaish, who defeated Al Shahaniya 3-1, drew four clear on top with 19 points. Sadd and Lekhwiya both have 15, but the former are ahead on goal difference while Rayyan, 13, are fourth.
Al Gharafa climbed to fifth with a deserving 4-2 win over underperforming Al Arabi while Umm Salal and Ahli played out an entertaining 1-1 draw.
Promoted side Muaither continued their good run as they shocked Al Khor 1-0 for their third straight victory.
In other action, Al Sailiya defeated Al Kharaitiyat 1-0 for their first win.