Doha, Qatar: Al Sailiya yet again showed their fighting qualities when they came back from a goal down to beat Al Gharafa 2-1 in the QNB Stars League on Saturday.
After a goalless first half, Vladimir Weiss gave Gharafa the lead in the 50th minute but late goals from substitutes Meshaal Al Shammari (73rd minute) and Mohammed Muddather (90+4) handed Sailiya an exciting victory that provisionally took them to second in the league with 25 points from 13 matches.
Even though Al Sadd (26 points) claimed back the second spot with a 3-0 win against Al Arabi in a late match, there is no doubt that Sailiya will play a big role in the title race, which is likely to be a two-horse race between Al Sadd and Al Duhail.
Leaders Duhail failed to find their rhythm even though they defeated Al Khor 1-0 to take their tally to 35 points. Youssef El Arabi scored the winner with a 35th-minute penalty, his 15th goal of the season.
Meanwhile at Al Ahli stadium, Gharafa were the better team and could have easily taken the lead in the first half itself had their strikers, Mehdi Taremi in particular, converted the chances that came their way.
Taremi started his misses with a wild left-footed swing at a looping ball from Sneijder pretty early in the game.
The Iran striker’s industriousness gave Sailiya more trouble when he chased a dangerous back pass to Saoud Mubarak and snatched the ball away from the goalkeeper only to find himself crowded out at the last moment.
Weiss then missed a great chance when he did all the hard work to surge into the box but held on to the ball for too long and ran into a tight angle before opting to go into the ground without any provocation.
With Taremi hitting across the goal line from a promising position and Nadir Belhadj’s shot missing the target at the other end after a slight deflection, the teams went for the breather unable to break the deadlock.
Gharafa had to substitute captain Sneijder with Ahmed Alaaeldin after the half-time break but they were still on the ascendency and within five minutes of the restart they were awarded a penalty when Weiss took full advantage of an ill-timed, feet-first, tackle from Sailiya goalkeeper Mubarak.
The Slovakian forward made no mistake from the spot to give the Cheetahs a well-deserved lead.
Ten minutes later Taremi was guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance when he hung on to the ball for far too long and forgot to take the shot at goal.
Sami Trabelsi has forged together a battling group of men who never stop fighting and they showed their tenacity with an equaliser in the 72nd minute despite being second best for the most part of the game.
Meshaal Al Shammari attacked a long pass and forced a mistake from under-pressure Gharafa keeper Youssef Hassan before calmly slotting the ball into an empty net.
Gharafa tried for a winner, but the equaliser had given Sailiya the heart for more and though Hassan partially redeemed himself with an acrobatic save from Abdulqadir Ilyas, he was helpless when Mohammed Muddather directed a rocket header off a cross from Meshaal into the roof of the net with virtually the last play of the game.