BAHRAIN Football Federation president Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa last night hailed the performance of the national team following a controversial 1-1 draw against hosts UAE in the opening match of the Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Bahrain were denied a deserving victory as UAE substitute Ahmed Khalil smashed home a late penalty harshly awarded for an harmless and unintentional handball after Mohammed Al Romaihi had given the Kingdom a shock lead.
Bahrain seemed well on way to a deserving victory but Jordanian referee Adham Makhadmeh pointed to the sport five minutes from time for what appeared an innocuous handball to offer the hosts an unfair and undeserving lifeline.
Khalil, appearing in his 100th international, displayed nerves of steel as he stepped up to rifle the spot kick into the top corner and send a raucous crown of 33,000 wild.
“Our players put up a much-improved performance and fully deserved full points,” said Shaikh Ali as he met the Bahrain players during yesterday’s training session at Al Jazira Academy Club Academy in Abu Dhabi.
“This single point we have earned will make things difficult and may also prove costly in our attempt to reach the knockout stage.
“But we hope to overcome this setback and put up an even better performance in our next match against Thailand (on Thursday in Dubai),” added Shaikh Ali.
Later last night, the Bahrain team left for Dubai.
Shaikh Ali thanked all the fans who travelled to Abu Dhabi to stand up and support the national team.
Meanwhile, striker Al Romaihi, who scored Bahrain’s and the tournament’s first goal, said the first match of any tournament is a difficult and tricky one, specially if the opponents are also the hosts.
“We should have won the match as we played very well in the second-half, but the referee awarded an unfair penalty,” said Al Romaihi.
“But thank God for the draw. We are now looking forward for the next games with renewed hope.”