The 2018-19 season QNB Stars League made a rousing start as the Week 1 action witnessed plenty of thrill and excitement. More importantly, it was a harbinger of things to come for the fans.
The cooling technology at the Khalifa International Stadium and Al Sadd Stadium made things comfortable for the players and spectators alike. And that was reflected on the performances on the field even though the tournament kicked off this season earlier than usual due to international commitments.
The first four weeks’ matches are scheduled only at these two venues.
Big teams, with the exception of Al Gharafa, recorded victories. Al Sadd scored the biggest-margin win when they beat Al Kharaitiyat 6-0, while holders Al Duhail survived a first-half scare against promoted Al Shahania, winning 3-0.
Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah struck the only hat-trick of the first round as Moroccan ace Yousef El Arabi, the last two seasons’ top scorer, continued his outstanding form by netting a brace for Al Duhail.
Bounedjah topped the scorers’ chart with three goals, followed by El Arabi, Hussein Ali (Qatar SC), Akram Afif (Al Sadd) and Abdulqadir Ilyas (Al Sailiya), all on two goals.
Al Rayyan, who won the season-opening Sheikh Jassim Cup, had no problems whatsoever while beating Al Ahli 2-0.
Al Gharafa, under new coach Christian Gourcuff, suffered a shock 1-3 loss to Qatar SC, who punched way above their weight.
Al Sailiya pulled off a stunning 2-1 victory over Umm Salal, with Ilyas netting the winner right at the death.
Al Arabi too got their campaign on a winning note, defeating Al Khor 1-0.
A total of 19 goals were scored. Three penalties were awarded, two in the Al Shahania vs Al Duhail game and one in Al Kharaitiyat vs Al Sadd fixture. While both El Arabi and Al Shahania’s Kesse Jean missed, Bounedjah converted from the spot.
The only red card was shown to Al Shahania’s Nadir Awadh for his foul on Ismail Mohammed in the 52nd minute of their encounter.