A late Yousef Msakni strike saw Al Arabi escape with a 2-2 draw against a fighting Muaither in Week 11 of the 2023-2024 season Expo Stars League at the Hamad Bin Khalifa Stadium of Al Ahli club on Friday.
Muaither seemed headed for a second win in the league when Msakni struck in added time and minutes before the final whistle to save The Dream Team the blushes.
While Rafinha Alcantara (35th minute) and Msakni (90+9 minute) scored the goals for Al Arabi, Denis Alibec (45+4 minute) and substitute Mohammed Salah El Neel (90th-minute penalty) found the target for Muaither.
It was also a game where goalkeepers of both sides - Ivanildo Rodrigues of Muaither and Jassim Al Hail of Al Arabi - stood out with their performance.
With the draw, Al Arabi moved on to 13 points and Muaither to six points.
Irrespective of their standing in the table, Muaither came up with a fine performance challenging the formidable Al Arabi with good defence and tactical attacking play.
As expected, Al Arabi were off the blocks, testing the rival defence time and again. They, however, were resisted and also had trouble finding a good finish.
In the 25th minute, captain Abdulla Al Marafi broke through from the right to strike successfully, but soon a VAR check had the goal overruled, the player being marginally off-side.
Al Arabi charged again soon, but in the 34th minute, goalkeeper Rodrigues blocked off a fine headed attempt from Omar Al Somah.
A minute later, Al Arabi went up the lead, with Rafinha latching on to a bouncing ball headed by Al Somah following a corner kick to score.
Al Arabi, however, lost the lead soon and against the run of play as Alibec grabbed a chance as Wassim Keddari failed to control a back pass off a free-kick by Abdou Diallo. Alibec gained control, moved ahead and beat the lone goalkeeper to equalize for his side. The reversal left Al Arabi coach Younes Ali in disgust.
Al Arabi resumed the second session to fight their way back and soon in the 51st minute had a great chance with Msakni having only the rival goalkeeper to beat, but his over-the-head lob went far too high and into the net over the goal.
The battle intensified and some players were cautioned for foul play. Muaither’s defence and intermittent forays in attack frustrated Al Arabi and, in the 90th minute, Keddari fouled in the danger area while bringing down a charging Alibec and the referee signalled to the spot.
El Neel converted the kick with a confident strike into the left corner as the goalkeeper dived to the right.
Muaither now seemed headed for a creditable victory, but Al Arabi held their nerves and showed class as Rafinha beat a slew of defenders midway down the right to move the ball to substitute Yousef Muftah who essayed a superb cross to an onrushing Msakni to score. It was brilliant of Msakni who kept a defender at bay while flicking the ball up into the left corner of the net.
The goal saved the day for Al Arabi and left Muaither disappointed yet again.