HOLDERS Al Rayyan showed glimpses of regaining their old form while beating Umm Salal 1-0, but their victory was marred by red cards to key players Victor Caceres and Abdulkarim Ali, and continuing insipid form of playmaker Rodrigo Tabata, who wasted a penalty.
Umm Salal too lost Ivorian striker Yannick Sagbo in a major scuffle involving almost all players from both sides in the 78th minute.
After a low-key first half, the match came alive in the 51st when Spanish forward Sergio Garcia headed home a Tabata free-kick.
Michael Laudrup’s men played some really entertaining football from then on until the brawl. What started off as a tussle for physical supremacy in the midfield between Caceres and Umm Salal’s Mubarak Baday heated up, took an ugly turn and led to a free for all.
Caceres brought Mubarak down with a slap on the face during an Umm Salal attack and that resulted in Sagbo engaging in an altercation with the Paraguayan, with other players crowding around.
Rayyan could have killed the game minutes later when Sebastian Soria, who came on as a substitute past the hour mark, won a penalty after Anderson Martins brought him down inside the area.
But Tabata failed to beat Baba Malik despite getting a second chance after referee Mohammed Al Shammari asked for a retake as he ruled the Umm Salal keeper had ventured out from the goalline in advance.
Laudrup described it as a dramatic game, but he did not dwell too much on the red cards.
“I can’t say about the three red cards because I didn’t see them correctly. I’ve to watch the replays,” said Laudrup. “It was a physical game and Caceres is a strong player. But I didn’t see either team making hard tackles in the entire match.”
“It was a tough game and we won it. We didn’t concede any goal. With the win, we’ve drawn further clear of the teams below us,” he added.
Laudrup will find it tough to field a strong side against Al Sailiya in Friday’s clash. Mohammed Alaaeldin will be out having seen a fourth yellow card against Umm Salal while defender Nathan Ribeiro and Ulysses Pascua are banned for three months for their reluctance to sign a contract with the Qatar Players Association.
South Korean midfielder Koh Myung-Jin is sidelined with a muscle injury.
“We’ve a few problems, but we’ll be fielding 11 players against Sailiya,” said Laudrup who, however, will be eager to have his best eleven in the 17th-round tie against title hopefuls El Jaish.