Bahrain hold defending champions Oman

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Omani midfielder Amran Al Hidi (left) heads the ball over Bahraini forward Mohamed Al Romaihi during their Group B match at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha, yesterday.

Defending champions Oman and Bahrain played out a goalless draw as both sides walked away with a point each from the opening Group B match of the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium yesterday.

Watched by a sizeable crowd including 100 students, who flew from Oman to support their national team in the match, the game was evenly-contested with both the sides creating several opportunities to score.

Oman were dominant in the first session while Bahrain - seeking their maiden Gulf Cup title - excelled in the second session.

“It was a tough game. We had many chances and Bahrain also got some good chances to score a goal. Overall, I am okay, nil-nil we can go on with this,” coach Erwin Koeman said as he expressed satisfaction the way Oman opened their title defence, at the post-match press conference.

“If you can’t win you don’t lose. We had chance to score in the first 75 minutes. We will now look to give better performance in our next matches,” he said.

Coach Helio Sousa, under whom Bahrain clinched their maiden WAFF Championship title, said: “It was a difficult game and both the teams had their chances. All the teams here are building since a long time and we are comparatively new.”

“We won the WAFF title for the first time and we will try to win this too,” he added.

As the game kicked off, defending champions Oman looked a better side, taking early control against their opponents by keeping possession and making back-to-back attacks.

Oman created half chances with Muhsen Saleh falling short to pick a long pass with just goalkeeper Shubbar on his way.

After dominating the first quarter, Oman’s star midfielder Al Mandhar Rabia got the first realistic chance to break the deadlock as he beat two defenders from a left surge but could not fire the opener as Bahrain captain Sayed Shubbar made a timely move to punch the shot, avoiding any damage.

Bahrain, who were concentrating mainly on the defense, gave first scare to the reigning champions in the 37th minute, when Mohammed Saad received a ball inside the circle and fired a shot on the target but goalkeeper Mohammed Saleh did well to get hold of the ball.

Just before the halftime whistle, Koeman’s Oman could have scored when striker Saad Suhail’s fired a cross which landed in no man’s land.

While Oman controlled the first session, Bahrain also made a few attacks late in the first half but without doing any damage.

Two minutes before the halftime, Al Mandhar got the first caution of the match from Belgium’s referee Alexandre Boucaut, who ended up showing four yellow cards with three Omanis on the receiving end.

The second half started on an injury note for Oman when Amran Said was stretchered off, with Abdul Sallam replacing the 21-year-old defender.

As the stalemate persisted, both the coaches made tactical changes with Bahrain striker Mohamed Marhoon replacing midfielder Mahdi Alhumaidan. For Oman, striker Arshad Said came in for midfielder Mohammed Al Ghafri.

Soon after the changes, the game gathered pace with both the teams intensifying the attacks to break the deadlock.

Oman goalkeeper Mohammed Saleh had to make double saves in the 74th minutes attempts from a close range by Komail Hasan and Saad.

The defending champions also made counter attacks but not enough to go past stubborn Bahraini defence.

 

Saad, again was unlucky to score for Bahrain after his fiery kick hit the top bar.

With less than five minutes left, Oman once again missed a goal when Saad Suhail cleared two defenders but was off target after managing to reach good position.

Oman’s goalkeeper Saleh avoided a late damage by blocking several attacks from Bahrain in the stoppage time including an acrobatic save from a header off Jasim Ahmed as both sides shared a point each after the final whistle.

Oman will now look to register their first victory against the 10-time champions Kuwait while Bahrain face Saudi Arabia – one of the title favourites. Both the matches will be played on Saturday.

Source: www.thepeninsulaqatar.com

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