Duhail clinch emphatic victory over Ulsan

Al Duhail emerged victorious with an impressive 3-1 win over Asian Champions League winners Ulsan Hyundai, fetching them a fifth-place finish in the FIFA Club World Cup Sunday.

In the opening matches of the tournament, both sides had lost – Al Duhail to Egypt’s Al Ahly and Ulsan to Mexico’s Tigres UANL. Both sides were left with the rather unglamorous prospect of having to complete the formalities in what is pretty much an event where only the winners are honoured.

However, with Edmilson Junior, Mohammed Muntari and Almoez Ali scoring brilliant goals at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium at Al Rayyan, Duhail acquitted themselves exceptionally well. 

Over a few weeks ago, Ulsan Hyundai had literally motored to their second continental title with a nine-match winning streak in Qatar’s bio-secure bubble, culminating with a 2-1 victory over the Iranian giants Persepolis 2-1 in the final.

Junior Negrao, who has since quit the team, had scored both of Ulsan’s goals along with coach Kim Do-hoon, who was replaced by Hong Myung-bo.

Ulsan’s defeats have been presided by its new boss Hong. However, the fact that South Koreans were pretty much inactive after their ACL heroics, while Duhail are right in the middle of their QNB Stars League campaign and hence not lacking in match practice, has attracted attention. 

This was quite evident on Sunday as the Qataris hit the ground running and threatening to score any moment. Ulsan were under pressure straightaway but hung on before Edmilson struck in at the 21st minute, putting Al Duhai ahead. 

Iranian Al Karimi put Edmilson through in the midfield and the Belgian raced down the middle unchallenged, before unleashing a powerful, low shot, beating the Ulsan goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo.

This was the in-form Belgian’s 13th strike in his last 10 appearances; however, it was expected of the local favorites to score at least a couple of goals more before the first half ended. Ulsan, though, showed much improvement after the break and claimed a deserved equaliser just after the hour-mark when Yoon Bit-garam scrambled home after some fine build-up play. 

But unfortunately, parity lasted for just four minutes as Al Duhail quickly reclaimed the lead with another outstanding goal, as Dudu’s scooped pass was volleyed home first time by Mohamed Muntari. 

Victory was secured eight minutes from time – again, with a goal of the highest quality – as Almoez Ali wriggled in from the right before burying a powerful right-foot shot beyond the helpless Jo Hyeon-woo. 

Experts predict that the win will definitely have Al Duhail standing in good stead for 2021’s Asian Champions League, which is scheduled for April, but for now, it is back to the QNB Stars League where they trail Xavi Al Sadd by 13 points after 15 matches and are almost resigned to surrendering their title. 

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