Saudi Arabia and Qatar will meet in the Gulf Cup final on Wednesday after recording victories on Sunday night over UAE and Oman respectively.
Hosts Saudi Arabia did it the hard way, wasting a two-goal lead to UAE before a late goal to Salem Al-Dawsari sealed their progression to the final.
Early on it looked as though they would coast to the final, racing to a 2-0 lead after just 22 minutes. AFC Player of the Year nominee Nasser Al-Shamrani opened the scoring when Saeed Al-Mowalad delivered a cross in from out wide that split the UAE defence, allowing Al-Shamrani to ghost in behind the defence and knock home the opener.
In the blink of an eye the lead was out to 2-0 after some static defending from UAE allowed Nawaf Al-Abid to score his second goal of the tournament. After creating space near the byline, Taisir Al-Jassim’s cross was poorly judged by both central defenders, allowing Al-Shamrani to touch the ball back for Al-Abid to knock home.
It went from bad to worse for UAE just five minutes later when star playmaker Omar Abdulrahman limped off, replaced by Ismaeel Al-Hamadi.
They wouldn’t die wondering, however, and pulled one back on 52 minutes when Ahmed Khalil flicked on Amer Adbulrahman’s free kick, instilling hope into the Whites supporters.
Just over ten minutes from full time they levelled it up at 2-2 when Khalil controlled the ball in the box and fought off three Saudi defenders to fire it past a wrong-footed Waleed Abdullah.
The dream ended five minutes from time though when a stunning goal from Al-Dawsari put the Saudis ahead for good. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, the Al Hilal winger turned two defenders before playing a one-two with club teammate Al-Shamrani before firing home a left foot bullet, giving Ali Khaseif no chance. It was a goal worthy of winning any semi-final.
In the earlier match, Qatar rallied from 1-0 down to overpower Oman.
Oman took an early lead when Raed Ibrahim Saleh smashed home a volley after 23 minutes. The lead would last only ten minutes after Meshaal Abdulla was bought down in the box. Hassan Al-Haydos stepped up and made no mistake, with the teams heading to the sheds at half time locked at 1-1.
Ismaeel Mohammad came close to scoring one of the goals of the tournament just before the hour mark after a sensational solo run, but his shot cannoned back off the post. The clearance from Ahmed Kano, however, went straight to Ali Assadalla who was standing on the penalty spot who made no mistake to give Qatar the lead for the first time.
It was that man Assadalla again just over five minutes later who scored Qatar’s third. Another defensive mistake allowed Abdulla to get the better of Ali Al Habsi who had come out of his box, and while his shot was cleared off the line, it once again only went as far as Assadalla whose shot ballooned over the Omani defence and into the net, booking Qatar’s spot in the final in the process.
Both finalists will be looking for their first Gulf Cup title in a decade; Saudi Arabia last won the regional competition in 2003, while Qatar claimed their most recent crown in 2004. The decider will take place at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.