BAHRAIN surged to a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Saudi Arabia to notch up their second consecutive Group A win in the 2023 AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup in Pattaya, Thailand yesterday.
The kingdom’s team were trailing 2-3 as the game entered its final minute but Rashed Jamal Salem scored the equaliser with less than 40 seconds to go.
With the Saudis now under pressure and the clock ticking closer to full-time, Mohamed Yaqoob fired in a perfect, long-range, free-kick from within Bahrain’s own half to score the winning goal with just seconds left till the final whistle.
Earlier, Bahrain had started the first, 12-minute period by launching an all-out attack on the Saudi goal. But Abdulla Al Abdulla’s free-kick was cleared by Ali Alaskah and, just a minute later, Salman Khaled Al Yaqoobi launched a powerful kick from the half-line only to see it bounce off the crossbar.
Saudi Arabia were now forced to play defensively but were still caught wrong-footed in the ninth minute when another long-range kick by Al Yaqoobi sailed over goalkeeper Alwaleed Safhi and into the back of the net to put Bahrain 1-0 ahead.
Less than a minute later, Mohamed Ashoor made it 2-0 for Bahrain as he dribbled his way past the Saudi defenders to send the ball skidding across the sand and underneath Safhi’s outstretched right hand into the goal.
Bahrain continued their dominance in the second period and nearly scored a third time when Ahmed Abdulrasool fired in a powerful kick from ten yards away but the ball flew over Safhi’s head and ricocheted off the bar.
Six minutes later, with just 60 seconds left till the end of the second period, Saudi Arabia came close to getting on the scoreboard but Ramzi Dakman’s kick had too much height on it and the ball sailed well over the goal, resulting in Bahrain going into the third period still holding on to their 2-0 lead.
But the tables were about to turn.
Two minutes into the last period, Saudi Arabia’s Naif Yakl deposited the ball into the right half of the Bahrain goal. A couple of minutes later, Safhi scored the equaliser as he sent the ball flying over the heads of the Bahrain players and into the goal.
With the score now level at 2-2, the Saudis had a new zip in their stride and, with barely two minutes left in the game, Belal Bawdah managed to score off a free-kick to put them ahead, 3-2.
However, the stage was now set for Salem and Yaqoob’s last-minute heroics and the Bahrain contingent celebrated happily as the final whistle was blown.
Bahrain now lead the four-team table with six points from their two games and will nail down a slot in the quarter-finals if they beat hosts Thailand in their last group match tomorrow.
Saudi Arabia, who have three points from their two matches and are in second place in the table, will play Afghanistan in their last group match tomorrow.
Thailand also have three points but are in third place because of goal difference while Afghanistan languish in last place after having lost their first two games.