AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Thursday 17 January 2013
Last update 16 January 2013 11:26 pm
MANAMA: Iraq will play the United Arab Emirates in the final of the Gulf Cup after two thrilling semifinals on Tuesday night.
Iraq shattered hosts Bahrain’s hopes of a maiden Gulf Cup title with a dramatic 4-2 victory in a penalty shootout after extra time ended 1-1.
And Ahmad Khalil was the Emirati hero as he scored a last-gasp goal to guide his team to a 1-0 victory over defending champions Kuwait.
The hero for Iraq was goalkeeper Noor Sabri, who not only saved two shots in the penalty shootout but also converted the winning spot kick to trigger wild celebrations among a large expatriate Iraqi crowd at the National Stadium in Riffa.
In the penalty shootout, Sabri saved penalties from Bahrain captain Mohammed Hussain and Abdulwahab Al-Malood while Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Jaffer fended off Iraq’s first penalty taken by Ahmed Yasin.
Dhirgham Ismail, Waleem Salem and Younes Khalaf were on target with the other penalties for Iraq while Faozi Ayish and Sayed Dhiya scored for Bahrain.
Earlier, captain and lone striker Khalaf scored what looked like a Iraqi match-winner in the 18th minute, latching on to a through pass from Hammadi Ahmed in the penalty area and successfully shaking off his marker Abdulla Al-Marzooqi and beating goalkeeper Jaffer with a low shot which went in off the far post.
Veteran defender Hussain Ali Baba produced the Bahrain equalizer in the 61st minute. His free kick from about 20 meters away from the penalty area shot off like a guided missile over the Iraqi wall and curled into the left top corner of the goal, eluding a diving Sabri.
It was undefeated Iraq’s first goal conceded in this championship.