SAYED Reza Isa fired in a last-gasp equaliser to help Bahrain escape with a thrilling 1-1 draw against the Philippines last night in an international friendly match played at National Stadium in Riffa.
After Philippine captain Phil Younghusband opened the scoring early in the second half with a penalty, the Bahrainis pushed hard to level the proceedings and did well to create several chances before the end of regulation. They could not come up with the finishing ball, however, until the seventh and final minute of stoppage time, when Isa rewarded his team for their perseverance with a goal from close range with what was virtually their final kick of the game.
The tune-up was part of both teams’ preparations for upcoming competitions, including the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, which is scheduled for this coming January.
It was the Bahrainis’ first of two friendlies over the next week. They are also set to face China in their other exhibition encounter on Monday at the same venue.
Last night’s game took place under humid conditions and its effects were evident from the outright as both teams got off to slow starts.
The first half was a generally dull affair with no clear-cut chances for either side. Bahrain’s Jamal Rashed wasted one opportunity; he should have done better with his shot in the first quarter-hour after being set up by teammate Sayed Dhiya Saeed on the edge of the area. But his left-footed attempt was well off the mark, failing to trouble the Philippines’ English Premier League goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
The contest was goalless at the break, but that quickly changed just three minutes after the re-start when Younghusband was sent tumbling in the box by Waleed Al Hayam as he received a pass in front of goal from fellow-Filipino Stephan Schrock.
The Emirati referee did not hesitate to call the foul and Younghusband picked himself up to take the spot kick. The popular striker made no mistake with his powerful attempt, which he sent straight into the bottom-left corner of the net.
Now facing a deficit, the hosts raised their level of play. Ahmed Moosa missed a glorious chance in the 79th minute. Abdulla Abdo curled in a precision pass into the area which was back-heeled by Mahdi Abduljabbar to a charging Moosa. But Moosa failed to take advantage of his perfect position in front of goal and misfired above the crossbar.
Abduljabbar then had a chance only minutes later, but the Filipinos did well to block his attempt and clear the ball from danger.
In the 84th minute, Rashed had a free-kick from a couple of yards outside the box go inches wide of the left post. Then, in the early minutes of added time, Abdo had a volley travel well off the mark.
That set the stage for Isa’s end-game heroics. In a wild sequence, Abduljabbar had a poor shot stopped and an Abdo effort was blocked but the ball could not be controlled by Etheridge. Isa then pounced on the rebound and sent the ball home into an empty net.