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Najma sign off on winning note

AL NAJMA notched their first victory in the 23rd GCC Clubs Soccer Championship, defeating Qatar's Al Wakra 3-2 in their last match in Group 'A' yesterday at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium of Al Jazira Club in Abu Dhabi.

The Bahrainis took the lead just after two minutes through midfielder Mohammed Nooruddin but Moroccan striker Adel Ramzi equalised for Al Wakra in the 30th minute.

The Qataris went ahead for the first time through Merghani Zain in the 35th minute, but Al Najma came back and levelled the scores thanks to their new-signing, French defender Benoit Croissant, in the 78th minute before midfielder Hussain Bodahoom fired the winner in injury time.

The result saw Al Najma finish third in this four-team group three points from three matches and left Al Wakra at the bottom with no points.

The Bahrain King Cup champions went into the match hoping to take their first win in this four-team group after two consecutive defeats to Al Ittifaq and Al Jazira.

They kicked off their campaign with a 0-2 defeat to Al Ittifaq last Sunday, which was followed by a heavy 0-3 loss at the hands of the home side on Wednesday.

Al Wakra, on the other hand, were also looking forward to their first win after going down to Al Ittifaq and Al Jazira with an identical score of 2-1.

In yesterday's top match, hosts Al Jazira of the UAE and title holders Al Ittifaq of Saudi Arabia tied 1-1 and both qualified for the semi-finals.

The two sides finished on seven points each but with Al Jazira ahead on goal difference. Al Ittifaq qualified as the best runner-up team among the three groups.

Both Al Jazira and Al Ittifaq joined Oman's Al Nasr in the semi-finals after the latter side secured top spot in Group 'C'.

Meanwhile, hot favourites Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia will take on Kuwait Club of Kuwait (6 points each) today at 6.30pm in Doha in a crunch Group 'B' encounter which will decide the winner of this group.

Hosts Um Salal of Qatar and Muscat of Oman will be looking for their first points in this group when the two sides clash at 8.30pm.

Both teams lost their previous two matches against Al Hilal and Kuwait Club.

Twelve teams, representing the six GCC countries, are taking part in this year's 23rd edition cup being organised by the GCC Soccer Organising Committee.

The teams were divided into three groups of four teams each with the winner in each group plus the best third place team qualifying for the semi-finals.

The semi-finals will be held over two legs on October 22 and November 26, to be followed by the final on December 24. Al Ittifaq won last year's title after defeating Al Qadsia of Kuwait with an aggregate score of 2-1 in a two-leg final.

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