Abu Dhabi: UAE and Saudi Arabia played out a goalless draw in the Group A encounter of the Gulf Cup at the Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium on Monday.
With this result, both teams are tied at the top of the standings with four points each and the semi-final spot in this group will be decided based on the result of the last group fixtures on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia may be playing with their second-string team in this tournament from the one that had ensured them a berth in the World Cup in Russia, but they matched the counterparts in every department.
Their resilient defence tightly marked the UAE’s attack force led by Ali Mabkhout and every time the ace midfielder Omar Abdul Rahman had the ball, at least two players would converge on him to prevent any concrete move.
The Afro-haired sensation still managed to send in those renowned deft passes but with so much marking going on, the breakthrough was far from near.
Ten minutes into play and UAE forward Mabkhout’s effort from a tight angle from inside the box off an Abdul Rahman release went wide off the goal.
In the 22nd minute, a corner from Abdul Rahman was well back-flicked by his brother Mohammed but an alert Saudi goalkeeper Assaf Al Qarni did well to block it.
Gaining in confidence
The closest of opportunities for the Saudi outfits came 10 minutes before the break off a counter. Abdul Rahman Al Obaid measured through found striker Mokhtar Falatah, who on seeing UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa slightly out of position, tried to float it over the latter. However, an alert Eisa just managed to stretch his left arm high enough to tip over the crossbar.
Both teams showed far more purpose after the change of ends. In the 52nd minute, a long-range grounder from Falatah was very much goal bound but Eisa did well to pluck it with a diving effort to his right.
In the 65th minute, another effort from the green brigade going in vain after Salman Al Moasher’s right-footer off a Mohammed Kanoo release had too much elevation to sail over the framework.
Saudi started gaining in confidence and another on the run volley from Falatah went begging from across the goal in the 69th minute.
In the 72nd minute, Fares Juma brought down Falatah at the edge of the box and it was a free-kick from a dangerous position. Al Obaid, who stepped in for the dead ball, shot it well but it had just enough flight to sail inches over the vertical.
Both teams pressed to score till the end but wasted more energy in safe guarding each other’s defences. The final whistle came with a scorching header from UAE substitute Ismaeel Al Hamadi flying just over the framework.
Credits : Gulfnews