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Duhail celebrate title in style

Doha: The title was already sealed, four of their first team players were missing, and there was every chance that the players' minds would be preoccupied with the trophy ceremony after the match, but Duhail were in no mood to let Al Sailiya spoil their coronation celebration.

Double strikes from Ismael Mohamed and Nam Tae Hee after an early opener from Almoez Ali gave Duhail a routine 5-1 victory as they finished off the proceedings in customary style at their beautiful stadium on Saturday. Sailiya’s goal was scored by Valentin Marius Lazar after the match was over as a contest.

Duhail started with a nervy 3-2 victory against Qatar SC back in September and have kept on improving.

Now their tally reads — 22 matches played, 19 victories, 86 goals scored 27 conceded, zero defeats.

There is nothing unexpected in Duhail winning the title for they were one of the strongest teams and among the favourites, but it’s the numbers they racked up as they marched towards the title that is just extraordinary.

Duhail thus became the first team in Qatar stars League to win the title unbeaten — Al Sadd had finished the season without a defeat in 1995-96, but with nine victories and seven draws they could only end up fourth in the standings which was headed by Al Arabi.

As for Duhail this season it was a totally different story. More often than not, they totally destroyed the opposition.

Captain Youssef Msakni and Youssef El Arabi scored goals for fun and were engaged in an engrossing battle for the top-scorer position throughout.

Coach Djamel Belmadi says the real challenge has only begun. Now we have three games in the Qatar Cup, then we have the Emir's Cup and the AFC Champions League knockout round matches.

And with the way they are performing now, no one will bet against them.

At the start of the campaign, Belmadi operated with Ali Afif and Ismail Mohammed as fullbacks and Duhail outscored every team despite being shaky in defence. The Algerian has now opted for a more orthodox approach with Murad Neji and Sultan Al Brake playing as full backs.

Both of them have settled nicely into the team and given them solidity without compromising much on Belmadi's 'attacking philosophy'.

Such has been Duhail's collective form that players like Almoez, one of the hottest properties in Qatar football, has not got much of a role to play this season while Nam Tae Hee, arguably the finest ball-player in the league, has been reduced to a supporting role.

But in the company of Karim Boudiaf and Luiz Martin, Nam makes Duhail's midfield click and on Saturday he showed he can always get back to his best if called upon.

In defence, Lucas Mendes, who joined form El Jaish during the close season, has proved to be a revelation after an indifferent start. Besides being a solid defender, his passes from deep have often caught rival defences napping.

And as Belmadi said in his pre-match press conference his young players also have made the most of the opportunity.

Bassam, Abdelrhman Mohammed and Abdullah Abdulsalam all got a chance against Sailiya and gave a fairly good account of themselves.

Duhail may have lifted the QSL title on Saturday, but in truth, their real challenge has only begun.

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