IT DRIZZLED lightly as Yannick Sagbo walked towards his car, where his wife clapped gently to welcome him and his kids gave kisses on either cheek. The Ivorian striker had helped Umm Salal hand Lekhwiya their first defeat of the season in all competitions, but even Cops’ captain Mohammed Mousa could not stop himself from congratulating them, as he passed by. The entire scene looked pretty cool.
It was a nice gesture by Mousa as he and team-mates were constantly tormented by Sagbo, who scored two goals to help Umm Salal to a deserving 3-1 win.
Sagbo, who joined from Hull City last season, struck on either side of the break (seventh and 50th) and his Syrian strike partner Mahmoud Al Mawas added the third in the 70th to give Umm Salal perhaps the most memorable win this season. Ismail Mohammed had cancelled out Sagbo’s first strike in the 23rd, but Lekhwiya were not at their aggressive best to stage a comeback this time around.
Djamel Belmadi’s men, who had settled for a 1-1 draw with champions Al Rayyan in the previous week, slipped to second place behind Al Sadd.
Baghdad Bounedjah pumped in five goals as Sadd handed Al Arabi an ignominious 7-0 defeat, which helped them catch up with Lekhwiya on 50 points and climb above them on goal difference.
Baghdad was the toast of Sadd team-mates, who might also thank Sagbo for doing them a big favour.
It was a game Lekhwiya will want to forget soon. They had the tie advanced by a day in order to fully recover in time for the AFC Champions League tie against the UAE’s Al Jazira. It also saw them play their home tie at the Al Gharafa Stadium and partly in rain. And what they dished out was equally unfamiliar as they struggled for midfield supremacy, looked slow in their movements and vulnerable at the back.
If Sagbo has been an imposing presence up front since joining Umm Salal last season, the addition of nimble-footed Mawas and wily Faouzi Ayesh to the frontline in January has given them more sharpness and variety.
Sagbo stunned Lekhwiya seven minutes into the game. Mawas made an impressive run along the right flank and sent a cross aimed at a charging Salem Khalifa. Keeper Amine Lecomte made a mess of the gathering as Sagbo shot the loose ball home.
Lecomte was lucky to escape a red card and penalty call for bringing down Mawas inside the area minutes later while, at the other end, Ismail made the most of the let-up to draw level after Nam Tae-Hee set him up from the left.
Lekhwiya expectedly dominated possession, but it was Umm Salal who looked really lethal on their counter-attack. Khaled Radwan conceded a penalty soon after resumption for holding back Sagbo inside the six-yard box and the latter blasted home from the spot to restore their lead. And Mawas virtually killed the game when he met a brilliant through pass from Ismail Ebrahim and placed it home, much to the cheer of Umm Salal camp.
“We had prepared for this game, but maybe the players were thinking a bit too much on the AFC Champions League game against Al Jazira,” said Belmadi.
“Umm Salal adopted a strategy which best suited them and could win the game. I don’t think they were better than us in all departments,” added the Algerian.
Umm Salal coach Mahmoud Jaber said the goals early in the first and second halves made the difference.
“We scored a goal early in the first half and it gave us confidence. Our second goal too came at a crucial time and we put Lekhwiya under a bit of a pressure with it,” said Mahmoud.
Meanwhile, Rayyan kept their faint title hopes alive with a thumping 5-0 win over Muaither.
El Jaish stayed fourth despite a shock 1-2 defeat against Al Kharaitiyat, but fifth-placed Al Gharafa cut their lead to five points with a 1-0 win over Al Khor.
Al Sailiya defeated Al Ahli 2-1 while Al Shahaniya and Al Wakrah played out a 2-2 draw in other action, as relegation battle continued to hot up.