12/5/2019 11:07:28 PM

Bahrain beat Iraq to enter Gulf Cup final

Bahrain beat Iraq to enter Gulf Cup final

Doha, Qatar: Substitute Ali Jafar scored from the spot for a perfect five in the tie-breaker, as Bahrain entered the final of Gulf Cup with a 5-3 victory against three-time champions Iraq on Thursday.

In the hard-fought semifinal at Al Duhail Stadium, Iraq had taken the lead twice and had even threatened to dominate briefly, but Bahrain came back on each occasion and had the final word when Jafar found the net after Mohamed Qasim missed the fourth kick for Iraq.

Bahrain, entering the final for the fifth time, will fight for their first title against the winners of the second semi between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Mohamed Hardan, Jassim Al Shaikh, Mohamed Marhoon and Thiago Fernandes also scored in the tie-breaker for Bahrain while Ali Atiyah, Dhurgham Al Quraishi, and Ibrahim Bayesh converted for Iraq, whose fans were heartbroken with the defeat.

But it had started so differently for Iraq, who took the lead in the sixth minute of a frantic opening period.

Bahrain were in early danger when  Mohamed Yousuf Hardan stopped young and promising midfielder Safaa Abdullah's run into the area at the expense of a freekick.

And it proved costly as Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Hashem fumbled Iraq captain Alaa Al Gharrawi's powerful freekick, allowing a lurking Muhannadi Ali, playing for Al Duhail SC in Qatar, to sweep home the rebound.

An ecstatic Ali hurdled past the advertisement boards and jumped above the fence to celebrate with the fans who were in already in delirium.

But the crowd was silenced in the 14th minute when Bahrain equalised, against the run of play.

Iraqi defence failed to deal with a corner and Abdulwahab Almalood's whipped cross was headed home by tall Bahrain defender Abdulla Al Hazaa who gave goalkeeper Hajem no chance.

The goal did not bring about any change in the pattern of the play, with Iraq continuing with their attacking ways. And soon they got the reward for that as Amjed Al Magsoosi shrugged off a couple of challenges in the midfield before finding Ibrahim Bayesh with a looping ball over the defence.

Bahrain backline failed to track Bayesh's diagonal run from the right while the goalkeeper had committed himself and was in a no man's land. All Bayesh had to do was to find the empty net and he did it effortlessly, flicking the ball over the keeper.

Iraq had regained the lead within four minutes of conceding the equaliser and they once again threated to run away with the match.

But Iraq, for all their attacking flair, looked vulnerable in defence, especially in dealing with dead balls as was proved again right at the end of the first half.

Freekicks conceded in the opposition half rarely gets punished with goals, but that's what Bahrain did in the second minute of first-half added time.  

Al Gharrawi was disappointed when he was shown a yellow card for catching Mohamed Yusuf with his elbow and it proved even costlier for him and his team.

Iraq defence failed to deal with the innocuous-looking long ball into the area, allowing Bahrain's Mohammed Marhoon, making a run from wide left, to control it on his chest and sent it past Hajem with the outside of his right boot.

The goal gave Bahrain momentum and plenty of belief as they started the second half on the attack. 

They got a freekick just outside the box right in the 48th minute and Hajem had to dive full length to his left to push Mohammad Shaban's shit for a corner. 

Helio Sousa's men were the better team in the second half and Iraq had to endure plenty of nervy moments especially towards the end of regular time.

The extra time was off to an exciting start with chances at both ends.

After Iraq's Bayesh fired his shot straight at goalkeeper Hashem, Ali, the other goalscorer, also got a glorious chance, with Bahrain's defender Al Hazaa having to make a last-ditch tackle to deny him while Iraq's substitute forward Shareef Al Mari failed to keep his follow up shot on target.

At the other end, Almalood's shot was deflected out for a corner before Mohamed Marhoon drew another save from Haejm,

Bahrain's Thiago Fernandes, who scored a double against Kuwait, rose high to meet a cross from the right but his header was straight at Hashem.

And when Ahmed Khalaf directed his header off a corner straight at Hashem, penalties became inevitable.

And Bahrain kept their cool when it mattered the most.

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