Doha, Qatar: Al Sadd have set themselves the stage for a grandstand coronation.
The Wolves can regain the QNB Stars League title, which they last won in 2012-13, with a victory against reigning champions Al Duhail SC in their next match.
Sadd had emerged as the favourites for the title with their 3-1 victory against Duhail in December and beating them again would be a true reflection of their domination this season.
But on Saturday against Al Sailiya at Al Ahli Stadium, they were far from dominating, despite the 2-0 scoreline.
It was all smooth sailing for Sadd in the first half during which they raided Sailiya goal in numbers and were just unlucky not to score more.
After missing a chance which he normally would have buried, Baghdad Bounedjah put Sadd ahead with a fine goal in the 18th minute.
Abdulkarim Hassan’s tantalising cross eluded Ahli defenders and drew goalkeeper Saud Al Khater out of his position into no man’s land, leaving Bounedjah with the easy task of finding an empty net, which he obliged gleefully with a looping header.
It was Bounedjah’s 35th goal of the season but he would be livid with himself that he did not add to it.
Hassan Al Haydous’ reverse pass freed Bounedjah in the 30th minute but his shot across the goal was too powerful for anyone to get a touch onto it.
Al Haydous then weaved his way into space and unleashed a powerful right footer, which Al Khater did well to palm away to safety.
Ali Asad also drew a save from Al Khater but the goalkeeper was lucky that the shot was hit straight at him.
Sadd created chances after chances and Akram Afif was the next one to miss, sending his shot high above the bar and they went for the halftime break with only one goal to show for their dominance.
Rachid Tiberkanine was Sailiya’s most potent goal threat but barring a couple of instances during which he posed anxious moments to Saad Al Sheeb in the Sadd goal, the Moroccan was mostly isolated.
Sailiya were down to ten men in the 65th minute when Al Khater got a direct red for a foul on Afif outside the box.
To make matters worse for them, Sadd brought in captain Xavi Hernandez, who was out injured for a couple of weeks, and his first task was to take the free-kick.
Xavi’s shot was saved by substitute goalkeeper Abdaraman Mahamat and as the match wore on it was Sadd faithful who drew anxious as Sailiya stood strong despite their numerical disadvantage.
They possessed a considerable attacking threat in players such as Tiberkanine and Abdulqadir Ilyas and they had a chance to give the title clash a twist when they were awarded a penalty in the 83rd minute after substitute Magdi Abdalla’s freekick from just outside the box hit the hand of Boualem Khoukhi in the wall.
However, to Sadd’s relief, Saad saved Ilyas’ weak penalty. Sailiya got a corner from it, but it was Sadd who scored through Afif with a lightning counter-attack.
Though the game was in Sadd’s bag Sailiya still managed to trouble them, with Ilyas beating Saad with an exquisite finish only for the goal to be ruled out by VAR.
Sadd now have 50 points while Sailiya remained fourth on 31.