Al Sadd deservedly emerged as the 2020-21 QNB Stars League champions after they beat Umm Salal 3-0 Sunday, a result that meant they could not be overtaken irrespective of the results of their remaining four matches.
Coached by Xavi Hernandez, the Wolves exhibited an outstanding level right throughout the season in terms of results and statistics that confirmed their excellence and superiority.
Their 15th league success is all the more creditable because they are yet to lose a match in the tournament so far, with nearest rivals Al Duhail 13 points behind with four matches to go.
Al Sadd now have 50 points from 18 matches and can hope to end the tournament unbeaten before the Champions League and other engagements begin.
The coronation ceremony took place after the match, strictly adhering to the precautionary measures and approved general health protocol implemented in the wake of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Baghdad Bounedjah (34th minute), Yousef Abdulrazaq (51st minute) and Rodrigo Tabata (90+2 minute) scored the goals.
Umm Salal remained on 15 points after their ninth defeat.
In-form Bounedjah made the first attempt in the fourth minute, but his angular strike from on edge of the box was far from Umm Salal goalkeeper Baba Malick.
Captain Hasan al-Haydos fired a shot on target from a distance and Umm Salal were lucky to evade the threat after Malick got control of the ball despite fumbling.
As the clock reached the quarter of an hour, Al Sadd were completely in their traditional attacking style, putting constant pressure on the opposition, hardly giving the ball away.
They continued to attack mostly from the right wing, with feared striker Akram Afif and Spaniard Santi Cazorla also making dangerous moves.
Roozbeh Mohamed received a yellow card for a handball as he tried to block Nam Tae-Hee’s chip near the box with referee Abdulhadi al-Ruaile handing Al Sadd a free-kick, but Al Haydous’ strike from the centre went wide.
Malick made a superb jumping save off Bounedjah’s header who received a long ball from Tae-hee near the penalty spot as Umm Salal continued to defy the pressure at half-hour mark.
Bounedjah, left unmarked, finally broke the deadlock in another attack from the right with a perfect first-time flick from a close range after receiving a shot pass from midfielder Abdurisag. Malick guarding his left corner had no chance as the ball landed in his right corner.
The goal brought no respite for Umm Salal defence as Al Sadd looked to double their lead before half-time.
The second half started in a similar fashion with Al Sadd making inroads. Three minutes into the second half, Bounedjah fired a rocket that struck the left goal-post.
Yousef Abdulrazaq gave Al Sadd their second goal three minutes later, pushing the ball over the head of diving Malick from a close range after an assist from captain Al Haydos.
Umm Salal tested Al Sadd’s defence on the hour mark with a move, but they failed to pose threat on Meshaal Barsham’s goal.
In the 65th minute, Bounedjah got a golden opportunity to score his second goal but his hit from a close range flew over the crossbar. In 72nd minute, Xavi sent fresh legs in veteran Tabata while calling back Afif.
Cazorla was carted off for a treatment after he collided with Roozbeh while racing into opposition’s box. Salem Al Hajri replaced the Spaniard with defender Musab Kheder replacing Pedro Miguel, 11 minutes before time.
The stoppages slowed down the pace of the match, but Al Sadd were still trying to find another goal. They got it in stoppage time after Tabata fired a superb left-footed drive from edge of the box as Al Sadd celebrated the title-winning victory.
Earlier Al Arabi beat Qatar SC 1-0, with Sebastian Soria’s goal in the eighth minute proved decisive in the action-packed match.
Al Arabi moved to 26 points with seven wins, five draws and six defeats, while Qatar SC stayed on 28 points after their sixth defeat.
Al Arabi looked a better side from the start keeping most of the ball possession and their strategy to put pressure on the opposition gave them the desired result early.
A brilliant cross from Fahad Shenain from the left landed in the danger area and while goalkeeper Jassim Al Hail failed to grab the ball, it took Soria’s touch and entered the net despite an acrobatic effort from defender Khaled Ahmed to clear the ball.
Referee Khamis Al Marri, in his first reaction, disallowed the goal, but determined that there was no foul by Soria after the VAR consultation.
Qatar SC regrouped after conceding the lead reducing Al Arabi’s ball domination, but The Dream Team were still ahead in terms of possession on the half-hour mark.
In the 42nd minute, Al Arabi’s Aron Gunnarsson received a yellow card for a foul on goalkeeper Al Hail as he tried to score following a corner. The goalkeeper received treatment for the injury.
Al Arabi tried to tone done the pace of the match in the second half as Qatar SC returned with an aggressive approach.
Qatar SC’s Hamed Ismail won a free-kick 10 yards outside the box in the 51st minute, but Al Hail thwarted it.
A few moments later, Al Hail punched away the ball from a free-kick by Bashar Resan from the left. Qatar SC created more chances, but execution was missing as they continued to trail Al Arabi.
In other matches yesterday, Al Rayyan defeated Al Ahli 3-1, while Al Wakrah defeated Al Sailiya 1-0.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2021