Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, those perennial underachievers, continued their climb up the table, with another momentous victory, this time over city rivals Al-Shurta, inflicting a 4-0 defeat on the league leaders in the Baghdad El Clásico.
The Baghdad derby is played between two of the Iraqi capital’s oldest clubs, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (Air Force) and Al-Shurta (Police), founded in the years 1931 and 1932 respectively.
The open and free flowing match, was played behind the backdrop of a lively and noisy partisan Al-Shaab crowd.
Al-Jawiya coach, Syrian Hussam Al-Sayed, has yet to taste defeat in the league after his baptism of fire in his first game, where his side put three past current champions Arbil. This time, it was the league leaders Al-Shurta that were the sacrificial lambs who the Saqour (Falcons) feasted on.
Al-Shurta’s Thair Jassam, looking to increase his side’s lead at the top of the league, had unexpectedly named disgruntled Cameroon striker Jean Michel N’Lend in the starting line-up, after he had benched him in the previous game.
He may have thought the Air Force defence would be intimidated by the physical centre forward, who bagged a hat-trick in the last encounter between the two clubs, but it was his fellow countryman Makadji Boukar, wearing the blue of Al-Jawiya, who gave the Al-Qithara backline the run a round.
Al-Jawiya, sitting fifth in the Iraqi league at the start of the day, a staggering 12 points behind their Baghdad neighbours, took the lead through Mustafa Karim after 31 minutes, when his deft strike deflected off Al-Shurta defender Ali Mohammed Aliah, and beat the keeper Mohammed Hamed in goal. It was Makadji that had found the striker free on the right side of the penalty area.
Al-Shurta’s Cameroon forward N’Lend almost got his team level, when he went close with a header after connecting to a right wing cross from Minusu Buba on 37 minutes.
However down the other end, that lively and steely worker Makadji, contrived and orchestrated the second goal for Mustafa Karim, beating the opposing left back Dhargham Ismail down the right wing, playing the ball off the defender and getting the better of a lucky bounce.
He left the Al-Shurta player for dead, raced down the right and cut back with a low cross finding Mustafa Karim, unmarked on the penalty spot, to stir the ball past the motionless and statuesque figure of Mohammed Hamed.
Mustafa, may have been the goalscorer, but it was Makadji, the Cameroonian used as a right wing back for the game by his coach, that was the creator.
By then Saqour Al-Azraq (Blue Falcons) were running amok and could have added a third on 42 minutes when a piece of poor defending from the usually reliable Mohammed Aliah let in Hamadi Ahmed, but his weak and lame attempt of a chip only managed to find the secure hands of the Shurta keeper.
In the first thirty seconds of the restart, knowing they needed to make a quick response, Amjad, Nashat, and Buba combined in a slick move, which opened up the Jawiya defence, however the Nigerian Buba, finding space out on the right could only fire wide.
Al-Shurta’s captain, Nashat, back in the national fold after crunch talks with Vladimir Petrovic, had hardly any support in the heart of the field, which was where the battle was lost, beaten by the dynamic and energetic Jawiya midfield of Muthanna, Humam and Haitham. Al-Qithara were toothless, both in midfield and attack.
The third was scored on 59 minutes, again, it started on the right, and once more it was Makadji that was involved. Muthanna Khalid played a one-two with Al-Jawiya’s visible No.35, and squared the ball across the box, where the fox in the box Hamadi Ahmed tapped in from three yards unmarked.
The coach of Al-Shurta was left shell-shocked after the goal, and in a bid to stay in touching distance, was forced to carry out open heart surgery on his line-up, bringing on Qasim Zaidan and Muslim Mubarak, for Ahmed Fadhil and an ineffective Jean Michel N’Lend.
They began to see more of the ball and dominate the play, but with no bite in the final third, the Police Club looked for a target man to spearhead their attack, and threw on marksman Hussein Karim, but a section of their adoring fans were angered to see Nashat trot off the pitch, with a brief but distinct chorus of boos directed at the Shurta bench.
They were well and truly beaten, by the old-boys of Al-Jawiya and on 76 minutes, Ayad Sadir wrapped up the game, and the points with a header from Hamadi Ahmed’s left wing corner, when grappling with Ali Mohammed Alialah, he got his head to the ball, which nicked off Dhargham Ismail and into the net.
Mustafa Karim looked as if he had scored his hat-trick with six minutes left, when he tapped in Ayad Sadir’s inviting cross from the left but it was ruled out for offside.
The victory helps Al-Jawiya climb up to fourth, on 35 points after 20 games. Al-Shurta stay top on 44 points, having played 21 games, however second placed Duhok, with 37 points from 19 matches, can narrow the gap on the league leaders when they take on third placed Al-Zawraa, also on 37 points but have played one game more, tomorrow.
Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya 4-0 Al-Shurta
Mustafa Karim 31, 37, Hamadi Ahmed 59, Ayad Sadir 76
Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya: 21 Mohanad Qasim; 32 Ali Mohammed, 3 Ali Abdul-Jabar [c], 4 Mohammed Abdul-Zahra, 6 Ayad Sadir; 35 Makadji Boukar, 7 Haitham Kadhim, 11 Humam Tariq (13 Bashar Resan 70’), 20 Muthanna Khalid (18 Mohammed Jabar Shawkan 89’), 5 Mustafa Karim (14 Reda Al-Weshai 85’); 8 Hamadi Ahmed (10 Ali Saad 79’).
Al-Shurta: 23 Mohammed Hamed; 33 Paul Koulibaly, 32 Ali Mohammed Alialah, 3 Dhargham Ismail, 22 Felix Innocent Awoa; 15 Nashat Akram (11 Hussein Karim 73’), 35 Ahmed Fadhil (6 Qasim Zaidan 60’), 5 Hussein Abdul-Wahid, 13 Minusu Buba, 14 Amjad Kelaf (24 Mahdi Kamil 82’); 21 Jean Michel N’Lend (10 Muslim Mubarak 61’).
Cautions: Ahmed Fadhil 28’, Humam Tariq 66’, Muslim Mubarak 75’, Hussein Karim 83’.