Doha, Qatar – Qatar opened the FIFA Arab Cup tournament with a rare win against Bahrain on Tuesday on a late goal against its Gulf rivals.
In other matches, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) defeated Syria 2-1, Tunisia beat Mauritania 5-1, and Iraq and Oman battled to a 1-1 draw on the first day of the competition.
After a lavish opening ceremony at the Al Bayt Stadium, Bahrain started as the better side but Qatar came on strong before the end of the scoreless first half.
Early on, Bahrain’s Abdulwahab al-Malood narrowly missed a goal after he headed the ball just wide.
Qatar’s Mohammed Waad had a dangerous chance at the 18-minute mark with a strike to the top half of the goal, but Bahrain keeper Sayed Mohamed Abbas lunged with his right hand and deflected it to safety.
At the 57th minute, Abulaziz Hatem booted a free kick to the far post that Ahmad Fathi headed into the pitch and the ball bounced just wide. Qatar continued to control play as Almoez Ali directed a fine pass from Akram Afif off his head just centimetres wide of the goal at the 64th minute.
Qatar finally broke through in the 69th minute when Hatem launched a perfect header off the post and in to give the reigning Asian Cup champions the victory.
“I think we played a good game, the first game is never easy,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez. “They are an organised team with top quality. The first half was a little difficult, but later we had the better chances so we deserved the three points.”
Hosts of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar had not beat Bahrain since a friendly in 2004. Group A includes Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and four-time champions Iraq.
UAE 2 Syria 1
United Arab Emirates dominated possession from the start of the match and held on to win 2-1 over Syria.
At the 24th minute, Caio Canedo finished off a series of quick passes and deftly headed a cross into the corner passed Syrian keeper Ibrahim Alma.
UAE’s Ali Saleh struck a first-timer six minutes later into the bottom of the right corner.
But Syria fought back late in the first half at Doha’s Stadium 974. Mohammed Osman hit the ball with strength from distance, forcing UAE keeper Ali Khasif to lunge and punch it just over the crossbar.
At the 60th minute, Syria broke through after a poor back pass by Canedo found its way to Ward Al Salama who booted a strike past a helpless Khasif.
The goal inspired the Syrian side that took command of play – until the 79th minute when UAE’s Tahnoon al-Zaabi hammered the ball off the post.
In the dying seconds, Syria’s Mohammad Al Hallak belted a chance that easily could have tied the match, but Khasif was equal to the task and preserved UAE’s win.
Tunisia 5 Mauritania 1
Tunisia punished Mauritania 5-1 at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium. Seifeddine Jaziri netted two goals, Firas Belarabi added a brace, and Youssef Msakni also scored on a strike late in the second half.
The only goal from the Mauritanian team was scored by Moulay Bessam who put it home on a penalty kick.
The Tunisian team secured its first three points in Group B, which also includes the United Arab Emirates and Syria.
Iraq 1 Oman 1
Iraq scored a late goal in a thriller against Oman to secure a 1-1 draw on Tuesday at the Al Janoub Stadium.
Saleh al-Yehani scored for Oman at the 78th minute after he beat Iraqi goalkeeper Fahad Talib with a blast into the right corner. After a VAR decision, Hasan Abdulkareem replied on a penalty kick for Iraq in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
The FIFA Arab Cup is hosted by Qatar until December 18 with the participation of 16 teams.
Iraq, the most successful team in the history of the competition, has four titles followed by Saudi Arabia with two. Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia each have won the tournament once.