Qatar Stars League’s reigning champions Al Gharafa are likely to retain their title this season as well. With just two rounds left, they are six points clear at the top of the League table. The team has peaked at the right time and their 3-0 win over Al Khor should help Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta heave a huge sigh of relief.
Al Rayyan and Al Sadd, who two weeks earlier posed a serious threat to Al Gharafa’s title hopes, share 48 points each. However Al Sadd, who received a boost through the return of their injured Ecuadorian striker Carlos Tenorio, are ahead on better goal difference.
Umm Salal, ever since their promotion to the first Division two seasons ago, have been unpredictable. Last season, they emerged surprise champions in the Emir’s Cup, thus assuring themselves of a place in the Asian Football Confederation’s Champions League. They put up a commanding display against Al Rayyan, beating them with a strong 3-1 display. Bahrain international Ala Hubail, with two goals, did the star turn for them.
Al Rayyan, trained by Paulo Autouri de Mello who once headed the Peru national team, sorely lacked a few good players. Defensive problems have always plagued them and their game against Umm Salal was no different. They started the season in grand style, but failed to sustain the momentum. Al Rayyan’s think-tanks need to work overtime to put the team back on track in time for the Heir Apparent’s and Emir’s Cup competitions.
Al Sailiya’s hopes of an upset away draw were Toto Hk dashed when Al Sadd’s Carlos Tenorio hit an injury time goal to snatch victory. The Ecuadorian, who played in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, had recently returned from a career-threatening injury. Al Sailiya tool a shock lead in the 42nd minute through Cameroonian Emmanuel Eifa before Al Sadd’s Ebrahim Majed equalised in the 57th.
Qatar Sports Club are well on course to finish fourth in the League so as to ensure a place in the Heir Apparent’s Cup competition. Only the top-four teams from the Qatar Stars League qualify for the event. Al Kharaitiyat stunned them through Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi in the 37th minute. However, Qatar fought hard for a draw and found their saviour in Abdulla Al Kuwari, who equalised in the 87th minute.
Al Arabi scored a comfortable 2-0 win over Al Wakra. Al Arabi, who are famous for their bright red uniforms, were unstoppable at home. Al Wakra continued their heavy fluctuations in form. They could not withstand the Al Arabi onslaught and succumbed meekly.
At the end of the 25 weeks of the Qatar Stars League, Al Gharafa leads the table with 54 points. Al Sadd and Al Rayyan are six points behind (48 each) while Qatar Sports Club (41), Al Khor (34), Umm Salal (32), Al Wakra (27), Al Arabi (25), Al Sailiya (19) and al Kharaitiyat (15) follow.