By Sports Reporter/Doha
Dutch international Wesley Sneijder made a winning debut in Qatar when his new side Al Gharafa beat fellow mid-table team Al Ahli 2-1 in the QNB Stars League yesterday.
Sneijder, the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan star who is Holland’s most capped player with 133 appearances, was making his first start for Al Gharafa just four days after being unveiled as a player for the Doha side.
The 33-year-old has signed an 18-month contract with the Qatari side following a disappointing few months at French Ligue 1 side Nice. Al Gharafa trailed to a first half goal from Yassine Chikhauol before striking back in the second period with Ahmed Alaeldin scoring twice to secure the victory. The win lifted Al Gharafa to sixth place in the table but they are 15 points behind leaders Al Duhail, who play Qatar SC today. Al Gharafa, under new coach Bulent Uygun, went on attacking mode right from the word go. They created chance after chance, with Sneijder being at the centre of the moves.
But Al Ahli, also playing their first match under Spaniard George Jorje, went ahead against the run of play when Tunisian midfielder Chikhaoui volleyed the ball home after a faulty clearance following a free-kick from the left by Mohsin Hassan. That was Al Ahli’s first real chance in the game. Chikhaoui again wreaked havoc in the rival area off a counter-attack only to see captain Meshaal Abdullah answering his hard work with a feeble shot that was too easy for Al Gharafa goalkeeper Qasim Burhan to stop. Gharafa found the breakthrough when Alaeldin placed the ball home after trapping it nicely off a cross from Othman al-Yahri from the right. An unmarked Alaeldin struck again 12 minutes later, this time sending a first-time shot off a cross from the right by captain Luis Jimenez.
Sailiya hold Arabi
In another match, Al Sailiya grabbed a late goal to secure a point against Al Arabi in an entertaining encounter that ended in a 1-1 draw at the Al Ahli Stadium. Al Arabi opened the scoring through Ahmed Abdulla in the 45th minute, but his goal was cancelled out in the 76th by Abdulrahman al-Harazi. After the winter break, the game was slow to get into action, with Al Sailiya gaining the most of the territorial advantage.
Their closest chances came through Romanian midfielder Valentin Lazar whose shot from a tight angle was well saved by the goalkeeper, followed by Wagner Ribeiro with a long-range effort.
With the half drawing to a close, it was the visitors who took the initiative as they surprised Al Arabi on the break. A long clearance upfield was chased down by Ahmed Abdulla who used his pace to run past Hamad al-Abidi on the left wing before breaking into the box and coolly slotting home.
Into the second half and Khalfan Ibrahim nearly doubled the advantage as he was inches away from meeting a header from close range. Sailiya started to play with more control as the game wore on and were rewarded through al-Harazi. Valentin sent in a ball from the left-hand side of the box and al-Harazi slid in to poke the ball into the net.
Six minutes from time, al-Harazi nearly scored again as he climbed highest to reach a header, but could not quite find the target and the game ended all square. Al Arabi will be disappointed that they could not hold on for victory, but will be aware that they secured an away point against quality opposition. Al Sailiya would have expected more from this match.
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