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Royals and underdogs: This week in Middle East football Open in fullscreen

Uri Levy

Royals and underdogs: This week in Middle East football

Al Faisaly share the top spot with Al Jazeera after the end of Al-Manaseer [Twitter]

Date of publication: 10 April, 2017

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Blog: The opening of April officially took Middle Eastern football into the season's closing moments, writes Uri Levy.

The first ten days of April officially took Middle Eastern football in to the season's final moments, and with temperatures rising all over the region, pitched battles get harder as teams are crowned with glory.

Royals reign

A full Amman International Stadium hosted the Amman Clásico between Al-Wehdat and Al-Faisaly on Saturday.

Aside from it being the Jordanian derby between the Palestinian refugees' club (Wehdat) and the Royal Hashemite team (Faisaly), the match was also a direct competition to see who could keep up with league leaders Al-Jazeera in the fight for the season's silverware.

It started well for the green champions of Al-Wehdat, with Hassan Abdelfattah scoring after just 16 minutes, sparking an explosion of noise from the Wehdati Ultras in the stands.

Polish striker Lukasz Szymon equalised for Al Faisaly with a penalty kick moments before the first half whistle was heard, giving the Royals a morale boost for the second half.

 
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Five minutes before the final whistle, Faisaly's Bilal Quwaider headed home the advantage and secured the victory.

After the whistle, Al-Faisaly fans invaded the pitch to celebrate.

These emotional three points over their arch-rivals and reigning champions were much more than a regular victory. For them, winning the last derby of the season may even have been more important than winning the league.

With Al-Jazeera mustering only a draw against Sahab, Al-Faisaly have now drawn level with the league leaders on 36 points, with Al-Wehdat third, just two points behind.

If that wasn't enough, Mansheyat are fourth with 33 points, and there are still four games left to play.

Who will win the league? No-one can be sure - but the race to the finish line in Jordan is a fascinating contest.

Hilal, one of the most veteran clubs in Palestinian football, are looking ready to secure their title next week, after a terrific season

First timers in Gaza

In Gaza, Al-Sadaqa guaranteed the championship title after a dominant season in the Dauri Mumtaz.

On the last matchday of the season, Al-Sadaqa beat Khidamat Al-Shatii 2-1 at al-Yarmouk Stadium to celebrate the club's first ever title.

The tiny club from Gaza finished ahead of strong teams from Rafah, Shabab and Khidamat, and gave cheer to thousands in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank Premier League, Hilal Al-Quds are racing towards the title. The league leaders hosted runners-up Tulkarem at the Faisal Husseini Stadium in Al-Ram, and despite going one goal down, completed a comeback to win 2-1 - one win closer to being crowned as champions.

Hilal, one of the most veteran clubs in Palestinian football, avoided relegation on the final matchday last season. Despite not winning the league since 2012, they are looking ready to secure their title next week, after a terrific season which they have been leading since day one.

The fierce rivalry involves much more than only football, and usually turns in to a political manifestation of the extreme right fans of Beitar, La Familia, and the Pro-Palestinian Ultras Sakhnin

'The Politico' of Beitar

For years, Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem was Ittihad Abnaa Sakhnin's favourite ground. Matches here against Beitar Jerusalem usually finished with a victory for the only Arab club in the Israeli Premier League.

The fierce rivalry involves much more than only football, and usually turns into a political manifestation of the extreme right fans of Beitar and La Familia meeting the Palestinian Ultras of Sakhnin.

While in past matches, politicians from the right and left of Israeli politics have exploited tensions here, this time the event was quiet, with any racist or violent incidents being listed.

Both teams have enjoyed a positive season in the league and made it to the upper playoffs. Moreover, Sakhnin and Beitar are both fighting Maccabi Petah Tikva for the Europa League spot next season. But this weekend, Beitar hammered the Sakhninis 3-0, and made it clear who's the better team, at least for this season.

While in the past this encounter was nicknamed ‘The Politcio’, it was good to see this meeting between the teams finishing in a respectable way. Until next season, of course.

For the fifth time in its history, Lekhwiya Club has won the Qatari Stars League

Lekhwiya touch the Stars in Qatar

For the fifth time in its history, Lekhwiya Club has won the Qatari Stars League. It wasn't an easy task, though. Hosting Al-Ahli in the Abdallah Ibn Khalifa stadium, it seemed that everything was ready for Lekhwiya's title celebration - but after just four minutes, Ali Fraydon shocked the home crowd and scored for the visitors.

The match was a nervous one with a total of seven yellow cards. The equaliser arrived in the 36th minute from the boot of Ismaeel Mohamad, and just as it looked that the celebrations would have to be put on ice until the final matchday of the season, Korean Tae-Hee Nam scored a belter in the 95th minute.

The win, allied with Al-Sadd's draw against Al-Sailiya, ensured that the title will be Lekhwiya's to savour. Mabrouk!

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here

 

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