By Sports Reporter/Doha
Youssef El Arabi recorded a double as Al Duhail made their Asian rivals sit up and take notice with a thrilling but convincing 3-2 away win against the UAE’s Al Wahda at the Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
The top Qatari side, who are undefeated in 17 QNB Stars League matches this season, surged to the top of Group B with six points with their second straight victory, having earlier beaten Iran’s Zobahan 3-1 in Doha last week.
Qatar’s Al Gharafa also had a lot to cheer yesterday after a convincing 3-0 victory over Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz in Doha erased the disappointment of their opening 2-3 defeat to the UAE’s Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi.
Al Wahda had suffered a 5-1 hammering by Lokomotiv Tashkent in their opening game and were desperate to bounce back in front of their home fans in the UAE capital.
They had missed five key players in Tashkent but that was not the case yesterday as all of them returned to the side to boost their side against Al Duhail in the crucial tie.
However, it made no difference to their fortunes as Al Duhail rallied from a goal down to bounce back in style and become the second Qatari team to snatch a win in the UAE in the lucrative tournament this year following Al Sadd’s victory over Al Wasl.
“We were not overawed by the situation and were confident about winning the match from the outset,” said Al Duhail coach Djamel Belmadi.
“Our start was bad as we conceded a penalty very early in the match but I am thrilled at the way the players responded to the challenge,” the Algerian added.
Al Duhail were in for a shock when a rough challenge on Mourad Batna by Sultan al-Brake in the third minute saw the referee pointing to the penalty spot.
Al Wahda’s Argentine striker and captain, Sebastian Tagliabue, sent the ball into the top right corner of the net to put the hosts ahead in front of their home crowd.
But the hosts struggled after that, surviving several scares as El Arabi, Youssef Msakni and Almoez Ali threatened to score any moment.
The intense pressure, however, yielded the equaliser in the second half with the dreaded pair of Msakni and El Arabi displaying excellent understanding up front.
Msakni squared the ball to El Arabi and the QNB Stars League top scorer with 21 goals made no mistake with his shot from six yards in the 57th minute.
Al Wahda struggled to contain Al Duhail after that and conceded the lead in the 75th minute when a deflected ball fell near Boudiaf who made no mistake for his third goal of the tournament in two matches.
El Arabi then made it 3-1 with an 80th minute header after an assist from al-Brake to compound Al Wahda’s woes.
The hosts pulled one back in the 90th minute through a second penalty. However, it couldn’t prevent them from slumping to the bottom of the table with two defeats from as many matches.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s Al Gharafa swept aside Tractorsazi Tabriz in their Group A clash in Doha to keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the knockouts, thanks to a Mehdi Taremi double.
Al Gharafa got off to a flyer and were in front after just 11 minutes when Taremi powered in a header from Othman al-Yahri’s cross.
Back-to-back defensive mistakes from Sime Gregov cost Tractorsazi another goal in the 21st minute.
The Croatian was first dispossessed by Taremi who out-muscled him to move clear on goal before selflessly squaring for Wesley Sneijder who had the empty goal at his mercy.
However, Gregov recovered just in time to intercept Taremi’s pass, only to fluff his lines and watch the ball roll into the back of the net from his attempted clearance for an own goal.
Tractorsazi were thrown a lifeline six minutes before the break when Rubert Quijada was fouled by Mohamed Naderi inside the box, but Mehdi Mehdipour saw his powerful strike from the spot parried away by goalkeeper Yousef Hassan.
Taremi had the chance to double his tally for the night, but his 75th minute penalty was saved by goalkeeper Jordi.
The Iranian international, however, made up for it with a close-range finish to round the scoring in the dying seconds of the game.
“After our narrow loss to Al Jazira last week, we are thrilled to have bounced back with this convincing win against Tractorsazi,” said Al Gharafa’s Turkish coach Bulent Uygun.
“Today’s win has certainly boosted our morale and we look forward to the remainder of the tournament,” he added.
Al Gharafa, who are third on goal difference in Group A, will next play Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in Doha while Tractorsazi travel to Abu Dhabi to face Al Jazira.
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