Doha: It was a perfect day for Djamel Belmadi. In fact, it has been a perfect season so far.
The Algerian coach urged his men from the sidelines, shouting regular instructions at them, and proudly watched as they went about with their job and dismantled Al Ain 4-1 for an 8-3 aggregate victory.
This was not any bottom of the table team in the QNB Stars League. This was Al Ain, the UAE champions, comprising big names such as the flamboyant Omar Abdulrahman and former Asian player of the year Ahmed Khalil.
And they were totally outplayed, at times toyed with, both in the first leg in the UAE last week and on Tuesday.
Belmadi was naturally happy.
"We are happy to qualify which was our primary goal and we are happy that we made it unbeaten. We were able to provide a very special season and our players showed up in the perfect way,” said Belmadi at the post-match press conference. “I thank God for these successes. It’s because of the combined effort of everyone at the club. We hope that the team continue at this level.”
Duhail has one more challenge – the Emir Cup final against Al Rayyan on Saturday — before the season concludes and Belmadi said he was happy with the early start of next season.
"What will be different from our previous participation is that the league will start before the start of our Champions League quarterfinals, which will give us an opportunity to have plenty of match practice. It’s good because we will be ready," said Belmadi.
Duhail can draw any of the other three sides from the West zone — Esteghlal and Persepolis from Iran and fellow Qataris Al Sadd — in the quarterfinals, but the Algerian said he prefers to meet an Iranian team in the last eight.
Duhail’s talismanic striker Youssef El Arabi also said the victory was because of teamwork. El Arabi helped himself with two goals, including a penalty, and was a constant threat for Al Ain defence.
His hold-up play to bring his team-mates into attack always bore fruit and Al Ain had no plan whatsoever to deal with him.
“Thank God for this victory, which helped us move to the quarterfinals without a draw or defeat. This is because of teamwork the joint effort of management, technical staff and my fellow players,” said El Arabi who now is the joint top scorer along with Sadd’s Baghdad Bounedjah, with nine goals.
“I am very happy with the goals and I think my greatest happiness was my team’s victory and our progress to the quarterfinals.
“I’m especially happy because I have been able to score in all Champions League games this season, all of which came with the help of my teammates.