BAHRAIN and Saudi Arabia played to a goalless draw last night in their second match of the 2019 West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Championship, currently being played in Iraq.
The Bahrainis had several chances in the contest to take an inspirational victory, but they were unlucky not to score.
The result gave the nationals a share of the points and it kept them in temporary first place on the Group ‘B’ standings in this preliminary stage of the tournament. It followed their win against Jordan in their opening fixture.
Bahrain have one match to play; it will be against Kuwait on Saturday. The result of that affair will determine whether the Bahrainis finish in first place of their division at the end of this round. Bahrain now have four points and are followed by Kuwait with three. Kuwait, however, had a game in hand, which was played late last night, missing our deadlines.
Saudi and Jordan complete the group standings.
Only the top team from both of the preliminary round groups march on to play in the title game. Group ‘A’ is currently led by hosts Iraq, who are trailed by Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Yemen.
Bahrain head coach Helio Sousa was in charge of Bahrain for only the second official match yesterday. He named a starting 11 that was mostly different from their opening encounter.
Between the posts was goalkeeper Sayed Shubar Alawi, and the rest of the squad comprised Sayed Naser, Waleed Alhayam, Ahmed Bughammar, Isa Ali, Mohammed Shaban, Abdulwahab Almalood, Mohammed Alromaihi, Ali Haram, Ahmed Ghilan and Komail Alaswad.
In the 10th minute, an unmarked Ghilan missed a free header off a right corner in the face of goal. He sent the ball just inches over the crossbar, wasting a marvelous chance for Bahrain to make a dream start.
In the 16th minute, Isa Ali rushed a long-range shot targeted at an empty Saudi goal after the opposing goalkeeper Mustafa Malaeka charged well off his line but missed a challenge for the ball nearly halfway up the pitch.
Ali again had a good chance in the 68th minute on the left of goal, but his shot was stopped by the Malaeka.
Then, in the 78th minute, Komail Alaswad had maybe Bahrain’s best attempt at a winner. He hit a powerful left-footed shot from several metres outside of the box and directly towards goal. The rocket beat Malaeka but it bounced off the crossbar, much to the dismay of the Bahrainis.
This year’s tournament is the ninth edition of the WAFF Championship. Iraq are hosting for the first time. The champions will take home $100,000 in prize money, while the runners-up will get $50,000.
Bahrain are taking part for the fourth time. They are looking to finish higher than third, which was their best of the competition to date. They claimed that placing in the previous edition of the championship, which took place in 2014 in Doha.