By Sports Reporter/Doha
Youssef El Arabi is sure Al Duhail can continue their march towards the latter stages of the AFC Champions League after the Qatari champions defeated Al Ain 4-1 in the second leg of the Round of 16 on Tuesday night to secure a place in the quarter-finals following an 8-3 aggregate win.
The victory was the Doha side’s eighth in a row on the continent and 20th in all competitions as the QNB Stars League champions followed their 4-2 first leg win with an equally resounding performance as they continue to sweep all challengers aside.
Moroccan international El Arabi opened the scoring last week in Al Ain and the striker added another two to his tally at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium to mean he is now the tournament’s joint top scorer on nine goals.
“I am very happy that we qualified, have won all of our games and scored four goals home and away against Al Ain,” said El Arabi. “I’m very happy that I scored twice today and this is the result of the efforts of the entire group. I want to thank my teammates because what’s important is qualification.”
Al Duhail had progressed as Group B winners having won all six of their games, but the 2016 runners-up and continental heavyweights Al Ain had been expected to offer greater resistance in the first knockout round.
Djamel Belmadi’s side, though, raced to a 4-0 lead in the first leg as they overpowered the Emirati team, and it was only two goals in the final 25 minutes that gave Al Ain any hope going into the second leg.
But an early Mohamed Ahmad own-goal on Tuesday killed the tie before El Arabi made it two on the half hour. Ismail Mohammad added a third and El Arabi bagged his brace from the spot, while Omar Abdulrahman grabbed a late consolation for the visitors.
In recent weeks, Al Duhail have wrapped up the QNB Stars League title and won the Qatar Cup. They play Al Rayyan in the Amir Cup final on Saturday and will now surely be ranked among the favourites for the AFC Champions League.
“Now we are close to winning the domestic treble and are in the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League,” added El Arabi. “I am very happy with our performances and I think we have a good chance to go far in this tournament.”
Meanwhile, coach Belmadi was delighted with his team qualification to the quarter-finals. “We are happy with the qualification, which was our main goal. And I am delighted that we could do it by winning all out matches so far. We are having a very special season and we are not done so far. We want to continue playing at the same level,” he said.
“It is important to have a full strength team and this was our problem in the past. We could not be successful in the all the tournaments. But now with the quality squad we have we can win try titles in all the championship we take part,” the Algerian said.
Al Ain manager Zoran Mamic was full of praise of Duhail team, calling the Qatari side one of the best teams in Asia. “You need to be a top team to be able to exploit the mistakes and Al Duhail did that. They deserved to reach the quarter-final. They played very good football, playing simple and not complicating things, with one-two touches and a lot of speed. They have such players in the team and they used that very well. This is the formula to be successful,” Mamic said.
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