By Sports Reporter/Doha
Hazem Shehata’s 56th minute strike helped Al Ahli beat Umm Salal 1-0 in the QNB Stars League yesterday, their eighth win in 17 matches keeping them in the hunt for a top-four finish.
With Al Sadd just a win away from the title, it’s the battle for second, third and fourth place that will take centre stage over the next five weeks as the tournament heads towards its final straight.
Al Ahli now have 26 points from 17 matches and are placed sixth on the table, one point behind Al Gharafa and two behind Qatar Sports Club And Al Rayyan.
Al Ahli’s win yesterday is all the more creditable as they were without Jasem al-Sharshani for 30 minutes after he was sent out following a second yellow card..
Umm Salal remained on 15 points following their eighth defeat.
After both sides fought to take early grip on the match without posing any major threat, Al Ahli, through Abdulrasheed Umaru, made the first attempt in the sixth minute. The Under-23 player fired a powerful shot from a distance, but rival goalkeeper Baba Malick dived to his right to stop the ball.
The Nebojsa Jovovic-coached side started putting pressure on Umm Salal with repeated attacks and, in the 12th minute, Malick had to make another diving save when Mohamed Diame almost headed the ball in, off a long free-kick by captain Omid Ebrahimi.
In the 26th minute, Al Ahli defender Shane Lowry stopped the ball from entering an open goal after keeper Yazan Naim, while trying to catch a long free-kick, collided with Umm Salal’s Ismail Mahmoud.
Captain Lawrence Quaye picked the ball from the edge and lobbed it towards the goal, but Lowry reached in time to thwart him.
Lowry, however, conceded a free-kick near the box after a rash challenge against Kayke Rodrigues, whose attempt from the left flew over the right corner 10 minutes before half-time.
Shehata attempted to score from a close range in stoppage time of the first session, but failed to find the mark.
After exchange of attacks in the second half, Al Ahli broke the deadlock. Shehata, assisted by Umaru, fired a shot on the left corner and the ball was too fast for Malick to stop.
Al Ahli got charged up after taking the lead and pressurised Umm Salal with aggressive football. But they suffered a setback after al-Sharshani received his second yellow card of the match for wasting time while leaving the pitch in a 66th-minute substitution. In the 87th minute, Al Ahli goalkeeper had to be treated after he punched away a bullet from Ismail Mahmoud. Umm Salal fired on all cylinders for an equaliser, but Al Ahli held their nerve till the end to secure full points.
In other matches yesterday, Al Sailiya and Al Khor drew 1-1 while Al Wakrah and Qatar Sports Club also featured in a stalemate with no team able to score.
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