Ali strike seals first-ever WAFF C’ship crown for Sousa’s Bahrain - GulfToday

Ali strike seals first-ever WAFF C’ship crown for Sousa’s Bahrain

Ali strike seals first-ever WAFF C’ship crown for Sousa’s Bahrain

Bahrain players celebrate with the trophy after beating Iraq in the final of the WAFF Championship at Karbala Sports City on Wednesday.

Karbala: A solitary goal from Isa Moosa Ali helped Bahrain to their first WAFF Championship title, beating tournament hosts Iraq 1-0 in the final at Karbala Sports City on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old struck shortly before half-time to silence the capacity crowd, before Bahrain held on to become the competition’s sixth winners since it was held for the first time in 2000.

Bahrain’s win caps a spectacular start to life at the helm for Portuguese head coach Hélio Sousa, who emerges from his first tournament in charge of the side with a regional title and four consecutive clean sheets.

Iraq-Bahrain-Fans Iraq fans support their team at the Karbala sports city. Reuters

Iraq had plenty of the ball but little of the early chances, while the visitors looked for counter-attacking opportunities through Ali and Mohamed Al Romaihi.

Bahrain took the lead in spectacular style through Ali in the 39th minute.

In a half where neither team had been afforded much space in the final third, Ali went temporarily unnoticed to find plenty of room on the left-hand side, then – after being played in by Mohamed Abdulwahab Shaban – emphatically slammed the ball high past Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hasan at his near post to make it 1-0 from eight yards.

Srečko Katanec’s men had 45 minutes to turn the final around but, unfortunately for the hosts, the early stages of the second half largely followed the precedent set before the interval. Iraq had ample possession, but a vigilant Bahrain defence meant genuine scoring chances remained a rarity.

With three goals in the tournament, Iraq’s Hussein Ali won both the top scorer and MVP awards, but it was Bahrain’s time to celebrate after completing a dream start to Sousa’s tenure.

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