Marco Verratti, the biggest name in Qatar football, debuted in his first match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Spanish forward Rodrigo Moreno scored a last-minute winner as 10-man Al Rayyan edged out Al Arabi 1-0 in front of a record crowd of 28,397 at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Saturday.
Spoiling Marco Verratti’s Qatar debut, Al Rayyan’s winning run continued despite hopes of prevailing by a heavily-armed Al Arabi outfit.
Despite the loss by Al Rayyan, Al Arabi issued a strong presence in the match as Abdullah Marafee attempted a through ball that cut through the defence to Abdou Diallo.
However, Diallo’s efforts were quickly spoiled as the referee called offside.
Inspired by the play, Omar Al Somah and Rafinha struck three attempts against Al Rayyan but failed short of hitting the net.
The showdown between the top-rated team Al Rayyan and last year’s runners-up Al Arabi marked the Week 4 clash of the 2023-2024 season for the newly-named Expo Stars League.
It also backs hopes of growing excitement for football in the Gulf state.
Verratti, who arrived from PSG, received a warm welcome and cheers from Al Arabi fans at the stadium for his first match.
Playing up to expectations, Verratti’s presence on the pitched made a difference as Al Rayyan appeared to apply extra pressure on the Italian star.
Now seventh in the league, Al Arabi will look to climb the league ladder as they take on on Qatar SC this week before heading to another group stage of the Qatar Stars Cup.