Wakrah Suffer Blow To Title Hopes After Loss To Markhiya

(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Bottom-side Al Markhiya stunned second-placed Al Wakrah 2-1 in the Expo Stars League at the Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday. It was Al Markhiya's only second win of the season after they rallied from a goal down to turn the tables on their fancied rivals.
Al Wakrah led 1-0 at half-time before Al Markhiya came back to score two goals in the second half while defending well in the eight added minutes for a worthy victory and the three valuable points.
While Hamdi Fathi gave Al Wakrah the lead in the 31st minute, Driss Fettouhi (58th minute) and Ruben Semedo (75th minute) did the scoring job for Al Markhiya. Al Wakrah's only second loss of the season saw them stay in second place on 28 points. Despite the victory, Al Markhiya stay bottom with seven points, three adrift of 11th placed Muaither.
Al Markhiya displayed intent right from the start even as Al Wakrah looked to make a strong start. In the 24th minute, Al Markhiya goalkeeper Omar Barry foiled a good Al Wakrah attempt as he blocked a powerful shot from Hamdy Fathy.
Four minutes later, Al Wakrah's Khalid Muneer challenged Barry with a shot from left of the box, but the goalkeeper was again adept making a diving save.
The Blue Wave, however, hit back soon with a fine goal which involved the combination of three players. Ayoub Assal took a free-kick from right of the box and Lucas Sainsbury headed the ball, but it was saved. However, the ball fell out and an alert Fathi lunged ahead to kick the ball back into the net (1-0).
The goal shook Al Markhiya's confidence, but they came back strongly in the second half making attacking moves and looking to make inroads. Their persistent efforts paid off when a dangerously-moving Yusupha Nije was pulled down by Al Wakrah's Ahmed Elsayed and the referee awarded a free-kick just outside the box.
Fettouhi stepped up to take the kick and delivered a superb left-footed strike that swung into the top right of the net (1-1).
Al Wakrah then tried hard to regain the lead, but were held back by some good defending. With Al Markhiya too looking to launch offensive, Al Wakrah also defended strongly. But Al Markhiya made the much-needed breakthrough with a patient and calculated move following a corner kick.
With the ball falling to Naby Sarr, he made a solid strike which hit the middle of the crossbar and rebounded for Semedo to grab the chance and score the winning goal. The added eight minutes of injury time saw some frenetic action, but alert Al Markhiya foiled all attempts and hopes of Al Wakrah to clinch a creditable win.
Earlier, Al Shamal and Muaither played out a goalless draw at the Al Bayt Stadium on Thursday. With the result, Al Shamal moved to 12 points, while Muaither now have 10.
The teams went toe-to-toe from the blast of the whistle and the match was evenly balanced for most part of first half. Al Shamal were awarded a penalty in the 12th minute after Muaither's goalkeeper, Ivanildo Rodrigues was adjudged to have fouled Ricardo Gomes inside the 18-yard box, but the decision was subsequently overturned after a lengthy VAR check.


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