BAHRAIN claimed a dramatic 3-1 victory over Malaysia last night to book a slot in the quarter-finals of the AFC Futsal Championship, being held in Chinese-Taipei.
A last-gasp goal from skipper Mohamed Al Sindi helped secure the victory and the Bahrainis’ place in the last eight, as they finished as runners-up on goal difference in Group ‘A’ of the first round.
Advancing as group winners were Vietnam, who had their own 3-1 win over hosts Chinese-Taipei in yesterday’s other divisional fixture.
Bahrain are next set to take on Group ‘B’ winners Japan in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
The Bahrainis were in the lead against Malaysia inside the opening three minutes with a fine Ahmed Abdulnabi goal. Abdulnabi back-flicked in an acrobatic volley from an Al Sindi cross from the left. Abdulnabi later made it two with a similar move, latching onto a long, high ball to give Bahrain a comfortable 2-0 cushion heading into the break.
The Malaysians got one back in the 33rd minute with a fierce drive from Syed Aizad. But it would eventually be just a lone consolation, as with less than a minute to go, Al Sindi sent a powerful, looping effort all the way into an unguarded net to peg the final score.
“Thank God that we made the last eight,” said Bahrain head coach Adel Marzooq. “I am very happy for my team and my players, especially those who are playing for the national team for the first time. I am so happy for the development of futsal in Bahrain, now we can say we are among the top teams in Asia.
“We were working hard the last two, three days to ensure the players focused on our match. No matter what happened in the other game (between Chinese Taipei and Vietnam) we had to win our own game. We wanted to show Asia that Bahrain is coming.
“I didn’t know the score in the other game until the last two minutes of our match, then I heard Vietnam was winning 2-1. So when we scored our third goal, I knew we had qualified.
“For the quarter-finals, Japan are a strong team, we know that. They are among the top three in Asia, they have good players. We will prepare for them differently. We have to fight more and prepare ourselves more than ever before.”
In the quarter-finals, Bahrain face off with Japan while Vietnam take on Group ‘B’ runners-up Uzbekistan. The other two matches will be determined today following the final matches in Group ‘C’ and Group ‘D’.
Bahrain are playing in the AFC Futsal Championship for only the second time in the competition’s history.