EL JAISH had looked good to challenge eventual champions Al Rayyan before a spate of injuries toppled their plans around this time last year. And it is hindering the Soldiers’ progress yet again as they lost the leaders’ status last week after suffering a 1-2 loss to Al Gharafa.
Krisztian Nemeth gave Gharafa the lead when he fired home a brilliant volley in the 25th minute, but Sardor Rashidov equalised through a fine half-volley in the 55th. However, Moayad Hassan won a penalty in the 66th and Vladimir Weiss dutifully converted it as Gharafa got back to winning ways, having suffered a shock 1-2 defeat against Al Sailiya in the previous round.
Al Sadd capitalised on Jaish’s slip as they climbed to the top by seeing off Al Sailiya 3-0, thus increasing their tally to 30 points. Lekhwiya defeated Al Ahli 2-1, a win they hardly deserved, as they caught up with the leaders on 30 points, but stayed second on goal difference.
With Majed Mohammed, Seydou Keita, Abdulkader Ilyas, Khaled Abdulrauf, Abdulrahman Abkar and Yousef Muftah all injured, Jaish coach Sabri Lamouchi has been finding it tough. The Frenchman’s frustration was palpable as he might have felt that with all his regular players, he had the chance to defeat Gharafa.
Jaish put up a fine performance, but their Brazilian striker Romarinho, who was expected to make the difference, was tightly marked by Gharafa’s defender Rashid Sumaila. The Ghanaian, who was signed on the final day of the summer transfer window, was one of the best players on the pitch and he has made a big impact on the team.
Gharafa coach Pedro Caixinha adopted a 4-3-2-1 system and it worked well for them.
“We asked our three midfielders (Anas Mubarak, Han Kook-Young and Abdulaziz Hatem) to do the dirty work, so that wide players Moayad and Weiss could catch our rivals on counter-attack,” said Caixinha.
Jaish put them under pressure for the first quarter hour, but Gharafa took the lead against run of play through Nemeth. Hatem, who had a good game, picked out the striker with a dipping flag-kick and the Hungary striker beat stop-gap defender Mohammed Jabri to volley it home with his outstretched leg.
After even exchanges later in the first half, Jaish once again took the upper hand at the start of the second session and Rashidov deservedly drew parity.
But Gharafa restored the lead minutes after the hour mark through Weiss. Moayad won a penalty when he, with his wily turn, forced Ali Sanad to commit a mistake and trip him inside the area.
Gharafa continued to play aggressively while Jaish did not have the right replacements to create problems for them.
“We’re a bit tired. Gharafa spent a lot of energy. I must congratulate them for their good defensive work. It’s an excellent result for them,” said Lamouchi.
Meanwhile, Al Rayyan defeated Al Arabi 3-0 in a one-sided affair while Umm Salal returned to winning path with a 3-1 win over Al Wakrah.
Al Kharaitiyat steered clear of the bottom with a 1-0 win over Muaither while Al Khor and Al Shahaniya played out a 2-2 draw.