BAHRAIN and China played to a goalless draw last night in an international friendly match at National Stadium in Riffa.
The fixture was part of both teams’ preparations for their upcoming competitions, including the AFC Asian Cup 2019 which takes place in the UAE in January.
It was the second tune-up game within a week for Bahrain. They had earlier faced the Philippines in a match that also ended in a stalemate, 1-1. It was also the second friendly for the Chinese in the Gulf. They had earlier travelled to Doha where they lost to the hosts 0-1.
Bahrain have two more lined up for next month, first against Syria and then with Palestine.
Both teams had only a few chances to open the scoring during the first half of yesterday’s clash.
The visitors, coached by World Cup-winning tactician Marcello Lippi from Italy, should have gone ahead before the break but Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Shubar Alawi made a brilliant save, parlaying a header from close range off a China corner.
The Chinese raised their level in the second half when they had the better of the chances between the two sides.
In the 60th minute, Bahrain’s Hamad Al Shamsan almost sent the ball into his own net. A shot by China’s Zhao Xurim rebounded off Al Shamsan and was headed directly into the goal, but skipper Waleed Al Hayam was able to clear the ball at the line.
Two minutes later, Wu Lei almost scored with a shot that beat Alawi but bounced off the crossbar. In the 72nd minute, Lei’s calls for a penalty fell on deaf ears after appearing to be taken down in the area.
Alawi was then the hero yet again, collecting a potentially dangerous low cross from the left wing by Li Xuepeng who was targeting teammates right in front of goal.
Minutes from full time, Bahrain then had their own golden opportunity to score later on, when Mahdi Abduljabbar was left unmarked in the box and had only Chinese goalkeeper Yan Junling to beat. But Abduljabbar wasted the chance, firing directly towards Junling who managed to punch the ball away.
The AFC Asian Cup 2019 will be Bahrain’s sixth participation in the continental showcase. Their best finish was in 2004, when they claimed fourth place overall out of 16 participating teams. In the previous edition in 2015 held in Australia, the Bahrainis failed to make it past the group stage after losing two of their three games.
Bahrain will be featuring in the inaugural match of the Asian Cup in the 43,000-capacity Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. It will on January 5 against hosts UAE.