Qatar down Bahrain as FIFA Arab Cup begins with dazzling ope...| MENAFN.COM

Saturday, 22 January 2022 06:37 GMT

Qatar down Bahrain as FIFA Arab Cup begins with dazzling opening ceremony


(MENAFN- The Peninsula)

Doha: Abdulaziz Hatem scored the winning goal as Asian champions Qatar edged Bahrain 1-0 to begin their FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021 campaign on a high note, sending home fans into raptures last night. 

The crucial victory by the home team in their opening Group A match was icing on the cake for spectators, who witnessed the inauguration of the 60,000-seater Al Bayt Stadium – a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 venue – and a dazzling opening ceremony of the highly-anticipated tournament, ahead of the kick off.

The Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani declared the tournament open after the packed venue was lit up with a spectacular firework display.

Also attending the ceremony was FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who addressed the spectators in Arabic, saying:“Qatar is the house of unity, the house of the Arab world today and the world tomorrow. Let us be one nation and one football family. Let's celebrate football that brings us together.”

The unique ceremony at the state-of-the-art stadium was technology-filled, also bringing together legendary artists from all over the Arab world, who amused fans with their scintillating performances.

Qatar earn much-needed win

Al Annabi entered the match with an eight-match winless streak, knowing fans want them to win the opening match.

While Hatem's goal in the 69th minute gave the winning points to Qatar, feared striker Akram Afif was the star for the home side creating several goal-scoring chances, with Hatem being the only one to avail the opportunity on his turn.

“We played a good game. The first half was little difficult because the opening game of any tournament is not easy. But I think we had better chances and we deserved the three points,” Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said after the victory. 

“Playing at this [Al Bayt] stadium, I think, it's an experience for us. As I have said before, to play in this tournament is like training for the World Cup. So, I think it's a good experience to have one year before the World Cup,” he added. 

With captain Hassan Al Haydos – returning from injury – and experienced Abdelkarim Hassan on the bench, midfielder Mohammed Waad got a start from Sanchez, who started with three defenders and two wingbacks.

After a cautious start from both the sides, Bahrain gave the hosts a scare in seventh minute with a cross just missing a touch of Mahdi Alhumaidan, who attempted a header from a close range. 

Qatar nearly took a quarter of an hour to enter Bahrain's box but an attack, led by Afif was foiled comfortably by the defenders. 

The Asian champions started pushing for a goal, with Waad's strike being averted by Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Mohamed. Afif created a superb chance by charging in from half-way line, setting Almoez Ali but the striker hit the ball in goalie's hands from a difficult angle. 

Bahrain's Waleed Alhayam received a caution for pushing Afif, who was sprinting towards the box through an empty space.

Soon after the half-hour mark, Sayed Mohamed made a flying save from Hatem's chip keeping the match goalless.

Qatar were clearly dictating terms with repeated surges towards opposition's goal while Bahrain, on the other hand, were struggling to find space. 

Afif won a free kick just outside the box after a foul, resulting in a yellow card for Waleed Alhayam, but Bassam Al Rawi's hit was too high.

In what was Bahrain's first close attempt, Sayed Dhiya's free kick 15 yards away from the box just missed the right corner, with a diving Saad Al Sheeb still too far, just before the break.

As both the teams looked to end the stalemate, Al Haydos came off the bench replacing Tareq Salman in the second half. 

Bahrain's Mohamed Hardan attempted to score from a distance but his hit went over the crossbar. Pedro Miguel foiled a dangerous attack, hitting the ball away from edge of the box as two Bahraini players sprinted towards the goal. 

Dhiya became the third Bahrain player to receive yellow card for his foul against Miguel just before Boualem Khoukhi's header bounced over the crossbar, close to the one-hour mark. 

Al Haydos was making his presence felt but he did not succeed in converting a brilliant cross from Afif into a goal as his header towards the goalkeeper lacked pace. 

Afif created two more chances with his slick run in quick time including a flick to Almoez, who wasted the golden opportunity by heading the ball out from a good position. 

The 2018 Asian Player of the Year finally set up a goal with Hatem responding his superb cross with a clinical header that found the cage despite an acrobatic effort by the Bahrain goalkeeper. 

Bahrain coach Helio Sousa sent in Abdulwahab Almalood and Ismaeel Abdullatif and their entry helped the 2019 Gulf Cup champions to pose threat to Qatar's lead. 

With 10 minutes remaining, Sanchez called back Miguel and Assim Madibo to introduce Mohammed Muntari and Musaab Khidir before Bahrain's Ismaeel Abdullatif sneaked into Qatar's box but Al Sheeb was there in time to keep home team's advantage intact.

With two minutes left, Afif – receiving a huge applause from spectators - was called back with Abdelkarim Hasan replacing the striker.

The hosts kept tight marking, giving no space to Bahrain, ensuring an important win that put them on top of the group as Oman and Iraq – the other Group A teams – played a 1-1 draw earlier yesterday.

 

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