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Kuwait, Bahrain set up final day showdown

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Erbil: Kuwait and Bahrain set up a virtual winner-takes-all showdown for a place in the 2019 WAFF Championship Final after they both claimed draws in their respective Group B matches in Iraq on Wednesday.

Kuwait drew 1-1 with Jordan, while Bahrain played out a goalless stalemate against Saudi Arabia, meaning the two sides – both on four points - will meet in Saturday’s final group match in the knowledge that a win will guarantee a place in next Wednesday’s final.

While Kuwait and Bahrain can dream of silverware, Wednesday’s results mean neither Jordan nor Saudi Arabia can advance beyond the group stage.

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Kuwait scored in the blink of an eye and looked to be moments away from recording a second successive win before a last-gasp equaliser from Salem Al Ajalin helped Jordan claim a 1-1 draw in Erbil.

While the late goal denied Kuwait a perfect record in the competition after two matches, it did little to help Jordan’s cause, with Vital Borkelmans’ side eliminated regardless of their result in their final group match against Saudi Arabia.

— KuwaitFA (@KuwaitFA) August 7, 2019

With a confidence-boosting win over Saudi Arabia secured on Sunday, Kuwait picked up from where they left off, winning a penalty with barely a minute of football played when Faisal Al Harbi was fouled, with the 27-year-old dusting himself off to calmly convert the spot-kick inside three minutes.

Stung by the concession of such an early goal, Jordan looked to take the ascendancy, while Kuwait, in a position of authority, looked to soak up the pressure and attack in transition.

A superb cross from substitute Ahmad Ersan found Yousef Rawsdeh in the 49th minute, but an improbable double save from Kuwaiti goalkeeper Hasan Abdulgahfour denied the Jordanian striker.

That was one of several missed opportunities for Jordan in the second-half, with Hamza Al Dardour’s 54th-minute miss when one-on-one with Abdulghafour one of the most glaring examples.

Despite their profligacy, Jordan’s momentum grew further just after the hour mark, when Kuwait’s Mohammad Al Nassar, booked just three minutes prior - was given his marching orders after a reckless challenge earned him a second yellow card.

The chances kept coming for Jordan, and Ersan looked to have squandered one of the last of them in 86th minute, but Al Ajalin finally scored his side’s equaliser, and first goal of the tournament, when he controlled the ball with his chest before finding the net in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Despite having victory snatched away at the final moment, Romeo Jozak’s side can still win the group by avoiding defeat against Bahrain on Saturday, while only pride will be on offer in Jordan’s final match against Saudi Arabia.


Earlier, Bahrain kept their hopes of a first ever WAFF Championship title alive with a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia.

While the points were shared, Bahrain were the side which took the most joy from the result, with Saudi Arabia now out of contention following their previous defeat to Kuwait.

The first half at Franso Hariri Stadium was one mostly lacking in incident. Saudi Arabia had more of the ball, while Bahrain had more of the chances, but neither posed a regular attacking threat in a 45 largely uninspired minutes.

Fresh from his goal in Saudi Arabia’s losing cause against Kuwait on Sunday, Rabee Sufyani sent a bicycle kick over the crossbar early in the second half, and later failed to get on the end of Fawz Al Yami’s inviting cross when only a touch was required.

Bahrain’s Isa Al Enzi latched onto a long pass before drawing a save from Mustafa Malaeka, and Hélio Sousa’s side got even nearer to breaking the deadlock when Kamil Aswad hit the crossbar with a fine effort from outside the box with 12 minutes remaining.

But that was closest either side came, leaving Bahrain unbeaten and with a relatively handsome total of four points from two matches, while Saudi Arabia’s point was their first in the competition.

The Green Falcons will look to leave Iraq with a win in their final match against Jordan on Saturday, while Bahrain have it all to play for against group leaders Kuwait.

Photos: Iraq Football Association

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