UAE advance after goalless draw with Kuwait
Oman’s Said Al-Ruzaiqi (center) controls the ball as Saudi’s Omar Hawsawi defends at Kuwait Stadium yesterday. Kuwait’s Fahd Al-Enezi (left) vies for the ball against Emirati player Ali Al-Bloushi at Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Stadium. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat
KUWAIT: The final round of Group A matches of the 23rd Arabian Gulf Cup ended in dramatic fashion yesterday, as firm favorites Saudi Arabia were knocked out following a defeat against Oman, while the United Arab Emirates settled for a draw against Kuwait to advance to the semifinals. In the two matches that were played simultaneously, Oman scored twice in the second half to beat Saudi Arabia at Kuwait Stadium, while the UAE vs Kuwait match at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium ended in a goalless draw.
Said Al-Ruzaiqi scored both of Oman’s goals in the second half, sending his team to the second round as Group A winners with six points. Saudi Arabia, which looked poised to advance after beating Kuwait in the opening round, finished the group stage in third place with four points. Kuwait finished the tournament in last place of Group A, but not before snagging a
point from their encounter with the UAE, which finished the group stage with five points.
Kuwait pressed early to start the match in front of a crowd of 20,538 – sharply down from their previous two matches – but their early attacks did not pose any real danger to the UAE. The Emiratis regrouped shortly afterwards and had two good chances, including a shot that was stopped by Kuwait’s goalkeeper Hameed Yousef.
As UAE continued to struggle to break through Kuwait’s sturdy defense, the Blues searched for a chance – and one came in the 41st minute when Kuwait’s Faisal Al-Harbi fell in the penalty area after appearing to make contact with a UAE defender, but no call was made. A counterattack came in the 42nd minute when Faisal Ajab stole UAE midfielder Omar Al-Amoodi’s ball and sent it forward, but the attempt came up short.
In the second half, Kuwait amped up the offensive and had two real scoring opportunities – the first when Sultan Al-Enezi’s free kick was blocked and Harbi failed to connect with the rebound, and the other when Captain Bader Al-Mutawa’s shot from outside the box was deflected. Kuwait kept up the pressure throughout the second half as the UAE settled to defend, seemingly looking for a draw that would put them in the semifinals. Substitute Fahd Al-Rashidi had the final scoring chance for Kuwait in the 89th minute before the referee blew the final whistle.
In the other match of the evening, Saudi player Khaled Abdulbaqi unwittingly deflected a rebounding ball off a free kick by Oman player Ruzaiqi into his own net, giving Oman their first goal in the match in the 58th minute. But Ruzaiqi was not satisfied, and scored what was to prove the winner with a brilliant header to beat the goalkeeper in the 78th minute.
With yesterday’s results, Oman move on to face the second-place finalist of Group B, while the UAE play the Group B winners in the semifinals on Tuesday. Iraq, who play Yemen today in Group B action, look to be the favorites to finish first, while a win or draw by Bahrain against Qatar will qualify them for the semifinals. Meanwhile, Qatar have to beat Bahrain to advance, and perhaps hope for an Iraqi blunder to top Group B.
By Ahmad Jabr