Winning starts for Jordan and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE share spoils
Bangkok: Jordan and Bahrain began their 2018 AFC Futsal Championship West Zone Qualifiers campaigns with wins over Qatar and Iraq respectively, while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates settled for a 1-1 draw at the Bangkok Arena on Friday.
Group B: Jordan 3-1 Qatar
It didn't take long for Jordan to open the scoring, with Samer Samih's (pictured above) long range pass into the box being tapped into the net by Ahmed Amer Samara in their first attempt in the second minute.
The pace of the game changed after the goal as Jordan eagerly searched for a second while Qatar increased the pressure looking for an equaliser.
In the sixth minute, Qatar's Erhama Ahmad was booked for a bad tackle, and Samer made no mistake in doubling their lead with a free-kick from 15 metres.
Fifteen minutes into the match, Said Ghulamnabi reduced Qatar's deficit with a free-kick which sailed into the top left of the net.
Qais Mohammad Shabib could have scored Jordan's third goal in the 29th minute when he dribbled past the Qatar defence and goalkeeper but saw his shot hit the left post. The deflected ball landed in front of him, but his shot struck the post a second time before being cleared.
Several minutes later, Yusef Ahmed infringed the four-second rule, rewarding Ahmed Rashid's side an indirect free-kick from the goal line, but Qatar failed to capitalise.
Jordan's one-touch passes were a sight to behold and it was only a matter of time before they scored.
Samer scored his second in the final three minutes, courtesy of Ahmed Abdelalrhman's accurate passing.
Salah Mohd Yusri: Jordan Head Coach
"We are extremely happy to win our first match. In a three-team Group B, every match is important, and it was good that we started with a win. I have much respect for Qatar as a team and for coach Ahmed. Now we look ahead against Lebanon, and they are strong as well, which is why it was important to win this match to have a better chance to qualify."
Ahmed Rashid: Qatar Head Coach
"In the beginning we had to play patiently because in an important qualifying match like this, we have to analyse our opponents. Jordan are a good team who scored with a few chances. Although we had more opportunities, we didn't score. Now we have to win against Lebanon if we want to have a fighting chance."
Group A: Iraq 2-3 Bahrain
Bahrain were more ambitious in the beginning, staring aggressively and it paid dividends very early in the game.
Jassam Saleh (pictured above, right) scored the first goal, after Sayed Mohamed Abbas’ long range throw caught Iraq’s offensive front off guard and found Jassam in a perfect position to score.
Iraq were given a penalty when Mohamed Abdulla Ali pulled Hasan Ali Dakheel down in the box.
Waleed Khalid Fahem stepped up to convert the spot-kick in the seventh minute.
Bahrain showed that they weren’t just dangerous with their long range passes, but also a threat when they were given space to play with, but Iraq’s defence was solid.
With the score level, both sides became more determined to gain the upperhand but Haitham Abbas Bawei’s side struggled to find any opportunities and were kept in their half because of Bahrain’s constant pressure.
It was deja vu in the 15th minute as Jassam scored his second, heading the ball in from close range courtesy of Sayed’s pinpoint pass.
Iraq had a glimmer of hope seconds before the half-time whistle, when Bahrain committed their fifth foul.
A free-kick was awarded but Hussein Abd Ali’s shot missed by a hairline.
The roles were reversed in the second half, with Iraq playing more aggressively and in control while Bahrain were on guard duty.
By the half-hour mark, both sides seemed to have deciphered one another’s tactics and only waited for mistakes to be made, but with the one-goal advantage, Bahrain didn’t mind defending and kept an eye out for the perfect counter-attack opportunity.
With five minutes left on the clock, Iraq were forced to activate their power play.
After numerous attempts, Ali Dakheel eventually found the goal they needed in the 38th minute.
However, Sayed’s throw into an empty Iraqi half found Jassam to head the ball in at the last second to secure all three points.
Haitham Abbas Bawei: Iraq Head Coach
“We had a good performance today but we didn’t score when we had the opportunity. Bahrain are a good team, but we will start preparing the players for tomorrow’s match against United Arab Emirates.”
Adel Marzooq: Bahrain Head Coach
“This is the first game for both teams, and the pressure to win was on both sides. We respect Iraq as a strong team, and that’s why we kept the pressure from the beginning till the very end. Our players were slightly tired in the final five minutes, during the power play, but we defended well and found the last goal. Tomorrow is a new day, and we will focus on tomorrow.”
Group A: Saudi Arabia 1-1 UAE
UAE piled on the pressure right from the get-go, and a slight misstep by Saudi Arabia’s Aroan Nawaf was more than enough for Ahmed Khalil to pounce on the loose ball to score in the second minute.
Just three minutes later, Moath Mohammed equalised with a super strike from outside the box after receiving a corner kick in.
It was very evenly matched, with both sides taking turns to attack and defend with the occasional quick reversals but nothing led to any goals.
The aggressiveness on both sides was reflected by the amount of fouls racked up. By the 13th minute, Saudi Arabia had three, while the UAE had five.
Another foul for the UAE would mean a spot-kick from the second penalty mark. With that in mind, Marcos Sorato’s side had to play more delicately which Saudi Arabia exploited to look for another goal.
However, a sixth foul was committed in the last 30 seconds of the first half.
Nawaf took the penalty with a superb strike but it hit the top bar, and the score remained 1-1 at half-time.
After the breather, Saudi Arabia returned with confidence but failed to break through the UAE’s defence formation.
The deadlock continued into the 30th minute, with neither side unrelenting in decreasing the pressure.
The UAE committed another five fouls in the second half, but Saudi Arabia didn’t take advantage and were left to regret their missed chances.
Yves Heremans: Saudi Arabia Head Coach
“The first game is always difficult to play. There were a lot of mistakes maybe because everyone is nervous. My players don't have as much experience as our opponents. We played too fast sometimes, and we needed to calm down. We had a penalty but it hit the post. It’s always the small details.”
Abdulroaf Omar: UAE Assistant Head Coach
“I want to thank all my players, without exception, because everyone gave 100 percent going into the match. Saudi Arabia are a good team individually, and as I said before, we come into the tournament this year the same level as everyone in this group. Today we showed that the UAE are a team you can’t beat easily. We will analyse our performance today and improve on our mistakes.”
Photos: Football Association of Thailand