DOHA: Bahrain reached the semi-finals of the 24th Gulf Cup after defeating Kuwait 4-2 in a Group ‘B’ match last night.
Bahrain had gone into the contest in fourth place in Group B, with just one point from two matches. But they leapfrogged Oman and Kuwait with a stunning display in their final group game. With defending champions Oman losing to Saudi Arabia 1-3 at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium around the same time, Bahrain players erupted in joy at the final whistle.
While Saudi qualified as Group ‘B’ toppers with six points, Bahrain finished on four points, the same as Oman. But a better goal difference to Oman sealed their place in the semis.
In the semi-finals on Thursday, Bahrain will take on Group ‘A’ winners Iraq while hosts Qatar play Saudi Arabia.
In a see-saw contest, Bahrain got on to the scoreboard first when Ali Madan gave them the lead in the stoppage time of the first half. Kuwait levelled after Yousef Nasser converted a penalty in the 59th minute, before Jassim Al Shaikh restored Bahrain’s lead in the 69th minute.
Thiago Augusto made it 3-1 for Bahrain in the 83rd minute. Ahmed Zanki, however, kept Kuwait’s chances alive by the reducing the deficit with an 85th minute strike. With Kuwait running out of time for an equaliser, Augusto sealed the deal for Bahrain with a stoppage time goal.
Kuwait started the second half in earnest and equalised after they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Zanki. Nasser stepped in to convert the penalty.
In the 65th minute, Kuwait thought they had taken the lead after Nasser slammed it past goalkeeper Sayed Jaffer. But upon a VAR review the goal was overruled as Nasser had committed a foul.
Four minutes later, Al Shaikh piled on Kuwait’s misery after he scored from outside the box. With Bahrain needing another goal to get past Oman on goal difference, they continued to attack. And it was Augusto, who came in as substitute in the 77th minute, who found the net after receiving a cross from Sayed Dhiya. Zanki kept Kuwait in the game with a goal in the 89th minute, but Augusto’s goal in the dying seconds ensured Bahrain’s place in the semis.
Bahrain’s coach Helio Sousa said his side deserved to go through to the semis. “We played a very good game, which showed the hard work we had put in in the last few months. I have 23 players here and they are ready to give it their all. Most of them played a key role in our triumph at the West Asian Championship,” he said.
“We have a very impressive team and what they are showing in this tournament is proof that we are one of the best teams in Asia,” Sousa added.
Earlier, Qatar defeated the UAE 4-2 to advance to the semi-finals.