Al Duhail completed a rare domestic treble last night, when they beat Al Rayyan 2-1 to clinch the Amir Cup at the Khalifa International Stadium.
A 30-yard thunderbolt from captain Karim Boudiaf gave Duhail the lead in the 34th minute, before Rayyan striker Sebastian Soria equalised in the 69th minute to set up a pulsating finish to the encounter.
Youssef El Arabi secured a famous victory for Duhail, after the forward calmly slotted home in the 81st minute. Last night’s triumph reiterated Duhail’s supremacy and ended their domestic season on a perfect note. They also became only the second team, after Al Sadd in 2006-07, to claim the domestic treble.
Djamel Belmadi’s side had already won the QNB Stars League and Qatar Cup titles, but the Amir Cup trophy will be the icing on the cake as it’s the most prestigious championship in Qatar. While Duhail went into the final as heavy favourites, Rayyan put in a spirited display in front of a packed house of 45,764 spectators, with the crowd raised the roof cheering on the two teams.
Watched by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the Duhail and Rayyan players produced a performance worthy of a final. Duhail, undefeated for a record 35 games in all competitions, started off on a bright note. In the 12th minute, Boudiaf thought he had put his team ahead, but the Duhail captain’s sweetly timed strike from outside the box clipped the right post.
But the Qatar midfielder wasn’t to be denied in the 34th minute, when he latched on to a Rayyan clearance and unleashed a screamer which landed into the top left corner of the net.
While Rayyan searched for the equaliser through skipper Rodrigo Tabata and Soria, it was Duhail who had the chance to increase their lead. South Korean international Nam Tae Hee, one of the outstanding players for Duhail this season, saw his deflected shot just skip wide. But the Red Knights were firmly in control of the final at the half-time. Rayyan, though, came out firing on all cylinders after the break, setting up an enthralling second half. They almost drew level in the 47th minute but Tabata’s free kick was palmed away expertly by goalkeeper Amine Lecomte.
Soria, however, brought life into Rayyan’s title challenge in the 68th minute. Moroccan winger Mouhcine Moutouali crossed the ball from the right past Lecomte, and an unmarked Soria directed his header into an empty net. The Rayyan players had a spring in their step now and played with much more pace. But Tabata missed a sitter when he fired his low header wide from a Soria cross and that costly miss came back to haunt Rayyan.
For Duhail, Nam once again proved to the man of the moment as the midfielder picked up a pass from his own half and ran past three Rayyan defenders. The South Korean then found Ismael on the right and the Qatari winger played a perfect ball to the incoming El Arabi, who found the net with ease. Rayyan pressed hard for the winner but it was Duhail who came close to scoring. Ismael had a chance to put the game into bed, but his shot from a tight angle hit the post.
Rayyan, however, had a couple of chances to take the game into a penalty shootout. Tabata's left-footer missed the mark but not by much of a margin, while Soria chipped the ball wide of the post with only Lecomte to beat.
By Sahan Bidappa
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019