The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Runaway pair resume two-horse title race

Defending champions Ahed have not lost a domestic match since February 2017

- By James Jabra

BEIRUT: Five games into the season and the Lebanese Premier League table has a familiar look to it.

Nejmeh and Ahed have swiftly distanced themselves from the chasing pack, with a five-point gap forming between the top two and third place Akhaa Ahli Aley.

Early defeats to city rivals Ahed and Nejmeh have almost certainly put paid to any hopes of a serious title challenge for revamped Ansar, while perennial contenders Safa are rooted to the foot of the table.

A two-horse race involving the capital juggernaut­s was always on the cards, but the rate at which it has materializ­ed will be rather dishearten­ing for the rest of the league and the local federation in particular.

Two-time defending champions Ahed have not lost a domestic match since February 2017, and they are widely expected to preserve that mark when they host secondbott­om Tripoli Friday.

Bassem Marmar will continue to be without injured league top scorer Martin Toshev, while center-back Khalil Khamis is also expected to be missing. Ahmad Zreik will make his second appearance since shaking off a knee problem, with the pacey winger joining a menacing attack alongside Mohammad Haidar, Rabih Ataya and Akram Moghrabi.

A win would provisiona­lly lift Ahed to the summit of the standings, with the Beirut club currently on 13 points from five matches.

Tripoli, meanwhile, are yet to register a win this season and have managed just a solitary goal from their woeful start.

Also Friday, Ansar will be eager to bounce back from last week’s 10 loss to Ahed when they face struggling Shabab al-Ghazieh.

The 13-time champions’ middling form has gleaned seven points so far, but victory against Ghazieh would see them rise to third place.

Nejmeh can maintain their perfect start away to Al-Bekaa Saturday, with the early pacesetter­s reinvigora­ted by the return of talisman Hasan Maatouk.

Boris Bunjak’s side are averaging almost three goals a game, while their miserly back line has conceded just three times.

 ??  ?? Ahed face second-bottom Tripoli Friday.
Ahed face second-bottom Tripoli Friday.

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