Football

UAE beat Iraq on penalties to enter Gulf Cup final

After 120 minutes of normal and extra-time failed to find a winner, it was turn of the lotteries.

The UAE beat Iraq 4-2 in penalty shootout to enter the final of the 23rd Arabian Gulf Cup in Kuwait City on Tuesday late night.

After 120 minutes of normal and extra-time failed to find a winner, it was turn of the lotteries.

UAE stars Ali Mabkhout, Omar Abdulrahman, Khamis Esmaeel and Mohamed Al Menhali were all on target against the ‘Lions of Mesopotamia’. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Saad Abdul Amir and Amjad Attwan netted but UAE keeper Khalid Eisa dived to his right to block Alaa Zahra and Humam Tariq blasted way over the bar.

The UAE meant business with strikers Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil in the lineup. The match was tactical and physical in equal measure. There were some 15 fouls in the first phase of play. Iraqi players, as expected, kept tab on Omar.

And high stakes in the clash meant there was no let from either side. In 15 minutes, a free kick into the box from Omar had Habib Fardan and keeper Jalal Hassan threw themselves in the line of fire. There was a good delay in play as the keeper needed medical attention.

Attempts on goal were hard to come by as midfielders orchestrated proceedings only to be denied by defenders at the point of final assault. The UAE had at least three clear attempts on goal. There was a good chance missed as Al Menhali dashed through the right flank dribbling past defenders but was denied by post. The striker could’ve passed onto Ali Mabkhout who was open and unchecked. On another occasion, Mabkhout controlled the cross well to dodge past defenders but ended with a frail shot.

Iraq had their moments and came close through header by Ali Bahjat but it lacked power and keeper Eisa up to the task. With 20 minutes to go, there was Alberto Zaccheroni’s last throw of dice as Ismail Al Hammadi replaced Khalil. In the last minute of normal time, Mabkhout had the best chance to net but Al Jazira striker couldn’t get placement right. There were more misses by strikers and top saves by defenders as extra-time too failed to find a breakthrough. Iraq came the closest with Zahra’s header but was denied by an alert Mohanad Salem. The UAE enjoyed the rub of the green. And now the UAE, eyeing their third Cup crown, will meet Oman in the final to be held at the Jaber International Stadium on Friday.

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