With a goal quite early on and another towards the end, Djamel Belmadi’s boys carved out a hard-fought win against a star-studded opposition, who have surprisingly been lying low, but gave enough indications of regaining their form.
South Korean midfielder Nam Tae-Hee and striker Lacina Diaby found the target.
Gharafa dropped points, which they have done on more occasions than winning. But then, there were many other losses. The biggest, of course, was injury to consistent deep defender Bilal Mohammed, who pulled out in the ninth minute with a knee ligament tear. The Qatar national team captain is likely to be sidelined for a few weeks.
To add to the woes, defensive midfielder Othman El Assas and central defender Ibrahim Ghanem went out after receiving red cards, thereby leaving the team a bit depleted for this week’s action against Al Kharaitiyat.
Coach Bruno Metsu, however, should be looking at the positives after parading his three new foreign players together for the first time. Ivorian Aruna Dindane, who donned the Gharafa colours incidentally against his former team Lekhwiya, impressed.
Mostly a right winger at Lekhwiya, Dindane moved up through the left, right and centre, remaining a constant threat by effectively utlising his power and swift pace.
Brazilian striker Diego Tardelli, who joined Gharafa from Russian side Anzhi, was also impressive at times, cutting in from the wings. As Gharafa raised their tempo and overall enthusiasm, 35-year-old Iranian forward Farhad Majidi, however, seemed struggling for pace.
In hindsight, conceding an early goal proved costly for Gharafa. A look-back at the ongoing season is anything but motivating and what Gharafa wanted was an early initiative. They did begin the right way, but Bilal’s pullout shook them a bit. A minute later, Mohammed Yasser’s late tackle on Lekhwiya forward Bakari Kone brought down the latter inside the area. Referee Banjar Al Dossari pointed to the spot and Nam converted it with composure.
Lekhwiya, though they wanted to increase the lead, found the rival midfielders strong to beat. They did not fully succeed in executing their quick-passing game plan and never took complete control at any stage either.
Gharafa threatened them throughout and penetrated a lot more post breather. Defender George Kossi had a header narrowly miss the goal. However, their best chance came in the 52nd, but Farhad’s clever chip, which beat goalkeeper Baba Malik, hit the left post and bounced back.
Othman too had a long-ranger go narrowly wide. The Moroccan midfielder went out seeing a second yellow card in the 78th. Lekhwiya made the most of it and increased the lead six minutes later, from a free-kick.
Nam’s through ball released striker Ismail Mohammed inside the area and the latter squared it for substitute striker Lacina, who tapped it home.
Gharafa’s Ibrahim Ghanem earned a second yellow card towards the end for arguing with the referee, whose red-card decisions looked a bit harsh on the team.
Face-off | LEKHWIYA VS AL GHARAFA
“Sometimes, an early goal can be crucial. Against Gharafa, we didn’t play the way we wanted to, especially in the midfield. But I’m happy that we scored two goals, didn’t concede any and regained the lead in the standings. We played with a lot of team spirit and our defence did a convincing job.
Djamel Belmadi, Lekhwiya coach.
“We played really well against a strong opponent. We lost Bilal (Mohammed) to injury and conceded a penalty, both in a span of two minutes. However, we fought hard and proved with our set of new players that we’re ready to put up an improved show. We didn’t have luck on our side and it has been like that right from the start of this season.
Bruno Metsu, Al Gharafa coach.