Saturday, March 20, 2010
Qatar Stars League: Al Gharfa 4-1 Al Sadd
So the 2009-2010 Qatar Stars League football season went down to the wire. With only two games left, national giants Al Gharafa and Al Sadd found themselves only 2 points apart with Al Gharafa hosting Al Sadd in the penultimate match a week before the season ended. With both teams facing relatively easy final games and sweeping pretty much everyone else in the league, this match would ultimately decide the 2010 season champion. A win would clinch the title for Al Gharafa giving current 2 times champions an unassailable 5 point lead with one game remaining, a draw would still suit Al Gharafa meaning they’d win the title with a win in the final game so the onus really was on Al Sadd to turn the table on its head.
With Al Sadd and Al Gharafa having won the last 7 Qatari league championships and having a total of 18 title wins between them, this truly was a contest for national supremacy. If I was going to catch a local league game while here in Qatar – this was most definitely the one to see and with Al-Gharafa’s Thani bin Jassim Stadium located just two blocks down from my house there really was no excuse not to catch this one.
The Qatar Stars League has become a place for many stars in the twilight of their careers to make one last paycheck before hanging up their boots with the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Marcel Desailly, Frank & Ronald De Boer, etc. all playing here. The highest profile player on display today was Gharafa’s ex-Lyon player Juninho Pernambucano, who made 40 international appearances for Brazil, representing them in the 2006 world cup. Unfortunately, Juninho’s trademark free kicks were not on display on the day. However, it was his Brazilian counterpart Clemerson de Araújo Soares, formerly o f Cruzeiro, who gave Al Gharafa the lead before Al Sadd’s Brazilian star Leandro equalized just before halftime. With Al Sadd needing to win to have the upper hand in the title race, they were made to push forward in the second half leaving their backline exposed, which Gharafa duly exploited. Saoud al-Shammari restored Gharafa’s lead before Iraqi star Younis Mahmoud hit a late double to kill off the tie and give Al Gharafa their third title in a row – 7th overall.