Bahrain clinch maiden Gulf Cup title

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Bahraini players celebrate after winning the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup title after defeating Saudi Arabia in the final played at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha, yesterday.

Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani crowned Bahrain champions of 24th Arabian Gulf Cup after ‘The Reds’ shocked three-time winners Saudi Arabia 1-0 in a thrilling final to clinch their maiden regional trophy yesterday .

 

The Father Amir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, H H Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Personal Representative of H H the Amir; H H Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani and H E Sheikh Jassim bin Khalifa Al Thani were also in attendance at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium where a large number of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain fans were also present.

Herve Renard’s Saudi Arabia – appearing in their seventh final of the regional tournament – dominated the title-deciding match – but Bahrain were rewarded for showing strong nerves in tense moments as they finally got their name on the winner’s list in their fifth final.

Striker Mohamed Al Rumaihi’s slick goal in the second half, which left the Saudi Arabian fans in silence, proved to be the trophy-winning goal as ‘The Green Falcons’ were left ruing a missed penalty in the first half by captain Salman Mohammed Al Faraj.

Fans from both the nations - who flew to Doha in large numbers ahead of the final - started to build up the intriguing clash a couple of hours before the kick off as both the sides made wholesale changes to start the game.

Bahrain coach Helio Sousa – following a marathon semi-final victory against Iraq on Thursday – decided to start the all-important clash with completely a new side but Saudi Arabia took early grip of the game after Frenchman Renard made three changes, fielding winger Salem Al Dawsari, Al Faraj and defending midfielder Ziyad Al Sahafi in the side.

As expected, the game got off to a fast start with both teams striving for early control of the title clash. Al Hilal star Al Dawsari, coming back from injury, soon made his presence felt by firing a right-footed drive from outside the box that struck the top bar.

Renard’s side soon won a penalty after Al Dawsari was brought down by striker Jasim Ahmed inside the box in the 11th minute, but the opportunity to grab an early lead was wasted as captain Al Faraj hit the ball wide much to the delight of the Bahraini fans.

In the first 30 minutes, the ‘Green Falcons’ were clearly dominating the proceedings with 65 percent of ball possession. They made plenty of more attacks after a missed penalty with Bahrain attack yet to pose a real threat against them.

Reckless tackles from both the sides continued to hamper the fast pace of the game resulting in cautions to Saudi Arabia’s Sultan Al Ghanam and Al Faraj while Bahrain defender Ahmed Nabeel was also handed a yellow card by Swiss referee Lionel Tschudi.

With five minutes left in the half time, ‘The Reds’ gave first scare to Renard’s side when striker Mahdi Al Humaidan’s header was tipped off by goalkeeper Fawaz Al Qarni.

 

Saudi Arabia were denied their second penalty after striker Abdullah Al Hamdan – who scored the winning goal against Qatar in the semi-final on Thursday – appeared to be tripped by Faisal Al Humaidan but VAR verdict decided against it as stalemate continued till halftime.

Renard rotated his defense line after the break with Talal Al-Absi coming in for Mohamed Khbrani as the play in start of the second was also concentrated in the Bahrain half with Saudi Arabia pushing the ‘Men in Red’ back.

Sousa’s Bahrain, however, remained undaunted and started to launch attacks from the right side and went ahead from one of those attacks after Al Rumaihi fired them ahead in the 69th minute.

The 29-year-old striker was in perfect position to deflect a cross from Al Humaidan as he tapped the ball past goalkeeper Fawaz for a 1-0 lead.

Saudi Arabia threw everything to bounce back in the game but a formidable Bahrain defense closed out gaps to deny Saudi Arabia.

‘The Reds’ held their nerves and cancelled out raging attacks from the Saudis in entire six minutes of stoppage time as their avid fans erupted in jubilation after the final whistle.

UAE striker Ali Mabkhout, who scored five goals including a hat-trick against Yemen, took the top scorer award while Saudi Arabia’s midfielder Abdullah Atif and goal-keeper Al Qarni were named as the best player and best goalkeeper of the tournament.

The tournament - which saw packed stadiums throughout the 15 matches - marked another successful organisation by Qatar sports authorities following blockbuster events like IAAF World Athletics Championships and ANOC World Beach Games in October.

Source: www.thepeninsulaqatar.com

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