12/9/2019 3:21:34 AM

Bahrain stun Saudi Arabia to win Gulf Cup 

Bahrain stun Saudi Arabia to win Gulf Cup 

Doha, Qatar: Bahrain came to the Gulf Cup as rank outsiders, and now they will go back as champions.

Helio Sousa-coached Bahrain have thrown surprises after surprises throughout the tournament, including sensational victories against Kuwait and Iraq, but no one thought they would reserve their best for the last, for the final, and stun Saudi Arabia to win their first-ever Gulf Cup title.

Mohamed Al Rumaihi scored the winner in the 69th minute, a left-footed into the bottom corner, and that was all Bahrain needed to win the 24th edition of the Gulf Cup.

Qatar Amir HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani presented the trophy to the winners, who tore down quite a few form books and reputations.

Sousa, springing surprises right from his team-sheet, had another one on offer for the final as he named an entirely different 11 to that defeated Iraq in the semifnal. However, it was Saudi Arabia, unsurprisingly, who started strongly in the final at Al Duhail Stadium.

Salem Al Dawsari, who came back after sitting out in the match against Qatar, was Saudi's best player in the opening period and crashed a fierce shot onto the bar in the fourth minute, with goalkeeper Sayed Jaafar well and truly beaten.

In the 10th minute, Al Dawsari was again at the centre of a Saudi attack and was fouled by Jasim Al Shaikh inside the box, with referee instantly pointing to the spot.

However, captain Salman Al Faraj missed a golden opportunity and fired a wild left-footer wide of the target.

Bahrain were unfazed by Saudi's bright start and were looking to counter whenever they had the chance. 

Mahdi Al Humaidan made a strong run on the left and cut inside but his shot was straight at Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Fawaz Al Qarni a few minutes later which was Bahrain's first attempt on target.

Even though Saudi saw plenty of possession in the midfield, clear cut chances were few and far between while at the other end a Bahrain move saw Kumail Al Sawad run out of space and settle for a corner which they failed to make the most of.

Saudi had a penalty claim turned down by VAR at the end of the first half when Abdullah Al Hamdan fell down inside the box after minimal contact from Al Humaidan.

Al Rumaihi, playing as a lone striker, was always making himself a menace for Saudi defence with his pace and physicality and was well supported on both flanks by Al Humaidan and Ali Madan.

In the second half too, started well as Al Dawsari tested  Jaafar from a tight angle.

It seemed Saudi Arabia had a slight edge in the game with Yasir Al Shahrani regularly joining the attack on the left flank where he linked up beautifully with Al Dawsari.

But Bahrain always possessed a counter-attacking threat which Saudi were wary of.

And Saudi's fears were realised in the 69th when Al Rumaihi expertly finished Al Humaidan's cross with a deft left-footed shot into the bottom corner.

Saudi tried their best for an equaliser, but Feras Al Bikran's scuffed shot in the 87th minute was their best opportunity.

Syed Isa Hashim fouled Al Bikran just outside the box in added time, but  Al Rumaihi standing in the wall received a full-blooded shot straight on his face to avert the danger.

It was still a nervy end, but Bahrain somehow stood strong for their most famous victory.

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