Iraq rue ‘missed opportunity’ after Gulf Cup defeat to the UAE

Iraq players react after losing a penalty shootout to the UAE in the Gulf Cup semifinal in Kuwait. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Iraq rue ‘missed opportunity’ after Gulf Cup defeat to the UAE

LONDON: The experience Iraq possess and the talent in their squad they should have won the Gulf Cup. There should be no excuses. The cup was there for the taking for Basim Qasim’s side.
From there Iraq looked as if they were set to power onto the final and win a first Gulf Cup in 30 years but they fell at the last hurdle. UAE and Iraq were the two best teams in the tournament and this really should have been the final.
It had all the hallmarks of the 2013 final in Manama, where Iraq were again defeated by the team from the Emirates, and again after extra-time. They will be sick of the sight of the UAE. This time the exit was much crueller as it came via penalties. The Iraqi sports media lauded its heroic players and hailed the side after the heartbreaking loss five years ago, pronouncing that they “may had lost a Gulf Cup final but they gained a new team,” but this one will be viewed very much as a missed opportunity, particularly with Oman lying in wait in the final.
Qasim will be disappointed as he found himself outwitted tactically by Alberto Zaccheroni, the UAE’s wily old fox of an Italian coach who shut the game down by stifling the movement of Iraq’s wide-men Ali Husni and Humam Tariq. Lone center-forward Aymen Hussein was swallowed up by UAE’s three-man defense which is yet to concede a goal in the tournament. Emirati commentators noted that Zaccheroni’s brand of football was “like watching a horror show”, but that won’t bother the former AC Milan coach one iota now they are in the final.
Qasim made mistakes but he is the man to lead the team forward. He has breathed new life into the Iraqi team after the disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign and unearthed a gem in Hussein Ali. He should be the player the team is built around for the Asian Cup next year. Much will be expected there.


Al-Hilal overcome Omar Abdulrahman injury blow to keep pace with Al-Nassr

Updated 21 October 2018
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Al-Hilal overcome Omar Abdulrahman injury blow to keep pace with Al-Nassr

  • Abdulrahman, who joined the Riyadh giants in August on a one-year loan deal, was carried off in some distress after 12 minutes
  • Al-Hilal maintained their perfect start to the Saudi Pro League season with a 1-0 win at Al-Shabab

JEDDAH: Despite a worrying injury to star player Omar Abdulrahman, Al-Hilal maintained their perfect start to the Saudi Pro League season with a 1-0 win at Al-Shabab at the weekend to keep the pressure on early leaders Al-Nassr.
Abdulrahman, who joined the Riyadh giants in August on a one-year loan deal, was carried off in some distress after 12 minutes at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium. The UAE international looked to be in considerable pain after stretching to reach the ball in the Al-Shabab area.
“‘Amoory’ will have to undergo tests to see how serious the injury is,” an Al-Hilal official told Arab News, adding that the player’s national team have expressed concern with the 2019 Asian Cup kicking off in early January. “We have already talked to the UAE team staff but we will have to wait and see.”
Despite the early setback, the defending champions dug in and took the three points thanks to a second-half strike from Mohammed Kanoo, who dedicated the victory to their injured team-mate. “We won the game for ‘Amoory’,” Kanoo said after the game. “We hope that this win helps him to achieve a complete and speedy recovery.”
The victory gave Al-Hilal five wins from five games this season to move three points behind Al-Nassr, who have managed six from six. “It was a tough game but an important win for us,” Kanoo added. “We need to keep going and keep collecting points.”
The injury to their key playmaker adds to other injury worries for coach Jorge Jesus. The team has already been without Saudi Arabia international Nawaf Al-Abed and star striker Bafetimbi Gomis, who headed to Turkey on Sunday morning to check the condition of a groin injury picked up ahead of the recent Saudi-Egypt Super Cup final against Zamalek.
Al-Shabab, reduced to ten men on the hour with the dismissal of Brazilian defender Euller, were left to rue missed chances against the defending champions.
“We defended well today and also played well on the counter-attack,” said Al-Shabab goalkeeper Fabrouk Ben Mustapha. “It was a good performance. We had the opportunities but were just not able to take them.”
The win keeps the pressure on leaders Al-Nassr, who claimed a 2-0 victory at Al-Batin on Friday. An early own goal from Lucas set the visitors on their way and the three points were sealed with a second-half strike from Abderrazak Hamdallah.
It was an even more impressive victory given that Al-Nassr were without influential winger Ahmed Musa. The Nigerian international, who joined in the summer from Leicester City and has been one of the best performers of the season so far, was given leave to travel home to visit his sick mother.
Coach Jose Daniel Carreno paid tribute to his players. “There are no easy games in this league,” the Uruguayan said. “We had to show our determination and stay cohesive and organized to take the win.”
The former Al-Shabab boss is not getting carried away by his team’s impressive start. “We are going well at the moment and it is great to be picking up points like this. There is still a long way to go and there are a number of strong teams in the league.”
Both Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr were given a boost as title rivals Al-Ahli suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday, a shock 6-2 thrashing at the hands of Al-Ittifaq, who climbed up to fifth in the table.
That loss saw the Jeddah club drop down to third with 13 points, two behind Al-Hilal and five behind the leaders. Elsewhere in the league, Al-Ittihad stayed bottom of the league with a 1-1 draw at home to Ohod in the first game under new coach Slaven Bilic. The Tigers are next in action on Thursday with a trip to rivals Al-Hilal.