By Sports Reporter/Doha
The excitement was palpable on the faces of fans as they trickled into Lusail Stadium to catch the first glimpse of the biggest stadium in Qatar.
The 80,000-capacity venue, which will host the final of the FIFA World Cup Qatar on December 18, staged its first competitive match yesterday as traditional rivals Al Arabi took on Al Rayyan in the QNB Stars League derby.
About 20,000 fans flocked to watch first match at the Lusail Stadium yesterday. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil
While Al Arabi fans were the happier of the lot as their team emerged victorious 2-1 on the night to go top of the league, the 20,000 fans who had assembled were able to relish the stunning venue located in the pioneering Lusail City.
The venue will host matches during every stage of Qatar 2022, starting with the Group C clash between Argentina and Saudi Arabia on November 22. Before that, the stadium will stage the Lusail Super Cup on September 9 between the Saudi Pro League champions and Egyptian Premier League winners, followed by a concert.
The stadium’s design is inspired by the interplay of light and shadow that characterises the fanar lantern. Its shape and golden façade echo the intricate decorative motifs on bowls, vessels and other art pieces found across the Arab and Islamic world during the rise of civilisation in the region.
Yesterday, the teams with the biggest fan base in Qatar trooped in with excitement as Arabi and Rayyan players went into the match with different purposes. While a win would rocket Arabi to top of the league, Rayyan were avoiding a defeat to get out of the bottom spot.
As it turned out, Arabi under their impressive manager Younes Ali, bagged the bragging rights over their rivals with a second successive victory.
“The atmosphere was great in this superb World Cup stadium and I am very happy to win an important match at this venue,” Al Arabi coach Younes Ali said after the match.
“We were very good in the first half while our performance declined in the second half but the important thing is that we managed to win against a tough side,” he added.
Yousef Msakni put Arabi ahead in the 12th minute, before Mehrdad Mohammadi made it 2-0 after converting a penalty in the 64th minute. Yohan Boli pulled a goal back for Rayyan with a 78th-minute strike but could not find the equaliser.
Rayyan had a good start to the match, or it seemed so. Boli had the ball in the back of the net in the 11th minute only for the goal to be ruled out by VAR for a foul on the buildup. Seconds later, however, Msakni cut across Rayyan’s Khaled Muftah inside the box to produce a stunner from the left. The Tunisian scored from an acute angle, sending the ball to the far left and right of the goalkeeper.
Midway through the second half, a kick from Arabi’s Omar al-Somah was handled by Al Rayyan’s Yasser Hamed in an evasive action. And referee Abdulrahman al-Jassim had a long VAR check before declaring a penalty, which Mohammadi converted with ease.
The battling Rayyan made a comeback soon when Boli, in the centre of the box, picked a perfect cross from substitute Mekki Tombari to score to the right of the goalkeeper. The match saw another big moment when Boli receiving a pass inside the box had the ball rolling off his right arm. The referee called for a penalty, but later changed the decision after VAR check.
In the stoppage time, Arabi defender Mohamed Sayyer picked up a second yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Boli. Despite the late drama, Arabi held on to secure victory.
Al Ahli hold Al Duhail
In an earlier match at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Ahli held off a forceful Al Duhail to a thrilling 1-1 draw. An 89th-minute penalty from Hussein Kanaani saw Ahli get the equaliser after substitute Nasser al-Yazidi scored for Duhail in the 79th minute.
This was the new season’s second positive result for Al Ahli, who had defeated Umm Salal 1-0 in their opening match. Al Duhail, who are yet to register a win, had lost 2-4 to Al Wakrah in their first game.
While last season’s runners-up and former champions Al Duhail held most of the possession and dominance, Al Ahli battled hard and posed many challenges to their fancied rivals.
The best chance was presented to Al Ahli in the final minutes when Duhail captain Luiz Martin Junior handled the ball while tackling Ahli’s Nikola Vukcevic from behind, inside the box. And referee Yousef al-Sharshani signalled to the spot after a VAR check.
Kanaani stepped up and scored successfully and then did a celebratory jig in delight. Duhail equalised when Edmilson Junior made a fine cross from the left to an unmarked al-Yazidi, who beat the goalkeeper’s stretched left foot.
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