Yemen hold Qatar in Gulf Cup surprise

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Coming into the 22nd edition of the Gulf Cup in few expected anything from minnows , who have been little more than whipping boys in their six Gulf Cup appearances since 2003.

Yet after two matches they have bettered their previous best points return of one point (in 2003, 2004 and 2007) after holding to a goalless draw overnight, adding to their opening night 0-0 draw with .

In their last nine Gulf Cup games before this tournament, Yemen had conceded 26 goals and scored just three, for a record of 0-0-9 and had lost 18 of their 21 matches overall.

In this match, Qatar started brightly and had two great chances inside the first seven minutes, but the Yemeni defence did enough to deny both chances.

They should have been made to pay when Yemeni striker Abdul Al-Matari was played through one-on-one with Qasem Burhan, but he inexplicably pulled his shot just centimetres wide.

It was one of the few chances Yemen created as they defended resolutely to frustrate Qatar who created the bulk of the opportunities.

With ten minutes left to play it looked as though Qatar would take the lead when Ismaeel Mohammad found space in the box, but although a goal looked inevitable he shot straight at a grateful Mohammed Ayash.

The match was stopped for several minutes late on after Yemeni defender Mohammed Boqshan was knocked out in an aerial contest with Karim Boudiaf, requiring urgent medical treatment.

And while Qatar continued to create chance after chance as the match headed towards 100 minutes thanks to the stoppage in play, the Yemeni defence was resolute and continued to frustrate the Qataris as they blocked two great chances.

As the final whistle blew there were scenes of jubilation from the Yemeni players and fans, at least 15,000 of them who have provided great colour and noise to the tournament.

Speaking after the match, Yemen captain Alaa Al Sassi was close to tears as he reflected on the historic result.

“This is great result when you consider the age of the team; many of them are very inexperienced,” he said.

“We are very happy with the performance,” he continued. “We have set an example, and hopefully future generations will bring even more.”

In the night’s second match hosts Saudi Arabia were expected to be too good for Bahrain, who looked poor in their opening match.

And that is exactly how the match played out. Saudi Arabia dominated early proceedings and took a deserved, if somewhat scrappy lead when Nasser Al-Shamrani fired home after it initially looked as though the chance would go begging.

The Al-Hilal striker was a constant threat, but it was Bahraini defender Abdulla Al Hazaa who doubled Saudi Arabia’s lead, accidentally knocking the ball into his own net from Saeed Al Mowalad’s cross just before the hour mark.

It was 3-0 fifteen minutes later thanks to another own goal, this time from Mohamed Husain as his attempted clearance ended up in the top corner.

Despite a couple of half chances late on, Bahrain couldn’t pull one back and it finished 3-0 in favour of the hosts, easing some of the pressure on coach Jose Ramon Lopez Caro.