25th Gulf Cup: Iraq beat Qatar to reach final after ten years

Sports Monday 16/January/2023 20:43 PM
By: Times News Service
25th Gulf Cup: Iraq beat Qatar to reach final after ten years
Iraq inched closer to the title as they defeated Qatar.

Muscat: Ten years since they last played in the final of the region’s most coveted football tournament, Iraq inched closer to the title as they defeated reigning Asian champions Qatar 2-1 in the first semi-final of the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup at Basra International Stadium in Basra, Iraq, on Monday.

Ibrahim Bayesh put the hosts ahead early with a strike in the 19th minute but the joy was short-lived as Amro Siraj found the equaliser for Qatar in the 28th minute.

Iraq’s Aymen Hussein put the team ahead with a goal in the 43rd minute, which proved decisive as Qatar failed to break down the rival defence in the second half against the home side backed by a partisan crowd at the packed 60,000 capacity venue.

The hosts had the first few chances with Hussein’s run on the left flank causing trouble in Qatar defence.

Iraq continued to control the tempo of the game for the majority of the half, but Qatar’s Siraj eventually got a chance on goal after running past his marker, only for his effort to be ruled offside.

Moments later, Iraq took the lead after the Qatari goalkeeper couldn’t hold the ball and it laid squarely on Bayesh’s feet who couldn’t miss in an open goal.

Qatar fought back and Siraj, whose first time volley found the equaliser to open up the game.

Iraq went ahead just before half-time following a Qatari defensive blunder as Amjad Attwan teed off Hussein, who chipped the ball over the goalie’s head for the goal.

For the rest of the match, Iraq resorted to a high defensive line despite the Qatari threats. Long balls to striker Hussein became a frequent strategy. While the rather tall and quick striker managed to win some aerial duels, he never controlled the ball for a shot before a defender intervened.

The second half’s crossing lull was sometimes interjected by energetic Qatari counter attacks that were stopped by the Iraqi defence before even reaching the penalty box.

Iraq came very close to their third goal when Attwan got a through ball on the right flank but his shot on goal from a difficult angle went just wide of the post.

Three-time champions Iraq had lost to the UAE in the 2013 Gulf Cup final and last won the title in 1988 in Saudi Arabia when they had defeated UAE. The previous two titles of Iraq came in 1984 and in 1979 when they hosted the Gulf Cup for the first time.