Brilliant Bahrain through to Gulf Cup semi-finals
TDT | Manama
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Defending champions Bahrain barged through last night to the semi-finals of the 25th Arab Gulf Cup despite being held by 10-man Kuwait to a 1-1 stalemate in both teams’ final Group B game, played at Basra International Stadium in Iraq.
Mahdi Humaidan scored for the Bahrainis in a dominant first half in which they should have netted at least four goals. The Kuwaitis made them pay and Shabib Al Khaldi fired in the equaliser just moments before the break.
The two sides tried to find a winner over the final 45 minutes but had to settle for a share of the points, which was enough to put the Bahrainis through to the last four. Qatar also advanced from their division after scoring a late goal to forge a 1-1 stalemate with the UAE in last night’s other Group B fixture, played simultaneously.
The semis are scheduled to be played on Monday next week. There, Bahrain will take on Group A runners-up Oman while the Qataris will play Iraq. The final is scheduled for Thursday night. Bahrain opened the scoring in 26th minute through Humaidan, who scored from close range following a fine cross supplied by Sayed Dhiya Saeed from the left.
Humaidan pounced on the low pass and sent the ball home with one touch from the outside edge of the six-yard box. Bahrain could have taken a 4-0 lead at the interval, but instead headed into the break deadlocked.
Ahmed Bughammar, Mahdi Abdullatif and Komail Al Aswad all had golden opportunities to score from inside the penalty area, but could not finish. Bughammar should have doubled Bahrain’s advantage in the 29th minute but Kuwait goalkeeper Sulaiman Abdulghafoor did well to turn away his effort from an acute angle.
Abdullatif also had a virtually sure-fire chance but his attempt was inches off target. Al Aswad had an opportunity on a quick counter-attack where Bahrain had a one-man advantage, but shot was parried by Abdulghafoor.
The Kuwaitis thus took advantage of Bahrain misfiring and Al Khaldi equalised on the stroke of half-time. He headed home off a long cross from the left wing supplied by Hamad Al Qallaf, stunning the Bahrain back line. A VAR check was conducted for a possible handball, but the goal stood.
In the second half, Al Qallaf was sent off in the 68th minute following his second bookable offence. That left the Kuwaitis to play the game’s final stages a man down. Abdulla Yusuf came on as a substitute and nearly scored in the 79th minute.
He tried to tap the ball in off a Saeed cross from the left, but Abdulghafoor was up to the task for a crucial save. Ali Haram also came close in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time, but his header off a corner went inches over the crossbar.
Bahrain head coach Helio Sousa started the match with an 11 that featured Sayed Mohammed Jaafar in goal; Saeed, Hamad Shamsan, Amine Hasan and Bughammar in defence; Hamza Adrees, Haram, Humaidan, Al Aswad and Mohammed Jassim Marhoon in a five-man midfield; and Abdullatif up front.