Striker Mahdi Abduljabbar starred with three outstanding goals and an assist as Manama romped to a comfortable 5-1 win over a completely outplayed Al Ahli side last night in an 11th-round match of the Nasser Bin Hamad Premier League at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium.
Having led 4-1 at half time, Manama added one more goal in the 53rd minute through national team midfielder Ibrahim Al Khatal who pounced on a pass from Abduljabbar and sent the ball rocketing into the net from close range with the Al Ahli goalkeeper caught wrong-footed.
Earlier, Abduljabbar had put Manama 1-0 ahead in the seventh minute of the game when, as a cross from left-back Ahmed Merza looped towards him from the right, he stuck his left foot out in the box to deflect the ball past the diving goalkeeper into the goal.
Just five minutes later, Syrian midfielder Mohammad Almarmour made it 2-0 when he sprinted into the Al Ahli box to punt the ball into the net with his right foot.
Al Ahli were already under pressure and it showed as they tried to fight off relentless Manama attacks on their goal with their own attempts going wide of, or over, their target.
And, in the 33rd minute, the Merza-Abduljabbar combination struck again as the left-back threw a long ball from the sideline to the striker, positioned in the Al Ahli box, who took the ball, turned and sent the ball curving past a defender and the goalkeeper into the goal.
Manama were now 3-0 ahead and Al Ahli needed to produce something special to fight their way back into the game.
After an extraordinary period of play over the next ten minutes, which saw a goal each from both teams disallowed because of players being declared off side, Al Ahli managed to do exactly that.
Hassan Medan broke through the Manama defence, after the Al Ahli forwards had briefly run circles around their opponents, to latch on to a rebound from the goalpost and tap it past the left of the goalkeeper into the goal with the scoreboard reading 3-1.
However, just four minutes later, Manama added to their tally again when Abduljabbar scored his third goal of the night in the 47th minute – two minutes of injury time having been added to the first half.
Almarmour sprinted down the left of the Al Ahli box to reach the ball off a long cross, drawing the goalkeeper towards him, and somehow parried it back to Abduljabbar, who calmly sent it rolling along the ground into the net with the goalkeeper still nowhere in sight.
The win pushes Manama – who were in second place with 18 points before the match – to 21 points from 11 matches in the 12-team table, just one behind leaders Muharraq, who have 22 from 10 games.
Al Ahli, who were in sixth place, remain in that slot, with 15 points from 11 games.
The 11th round matches continue today with Riffa taking on Al Khaldiya, Hidd facing off against Budaiya and Muharraq playing Sitra.