On a sombre day, Iraq brought joy to their fans as they edged past a valiant Oman 3-2 in the final of the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup football tournament at the Basra International Stadium on Thursday night.
It was the fourth ever title for Iraq, who ended a 35-year title drought with the hard-fought victory against the Red Warriors. The last time Iraq had won a Gulf Cup trophy was in 1988 in Saudi Arabia.
In a dramatic match that wasn’t for the weak-hearted, Iraq won with a last-minute goal in extra time after the teams were locked in a 1-1 stalemate at the end of the regulation time.
Kudos to Branko Ivankovic’s Oman who did not give up the fight till the final whistle as the equaliser in regulation time also was scored with seconds left.
Salah al Yahayei’s converted penalty to cancel Ibrahim Bayesh’s 24th minute goal to force the match into extra time.
The next 30 minutes were like a pendulum swinging from one end to other with Amjad Attwan scoring off a penalty to put the hosts ahead in the 116th minute.
Three minutes later, Oman found the equaliser again, this time Omar al Maliki beating Iraq goalie Jalal Hassan.
As it appeared that the match would go into the penalties, Manaf Younis got the winner with a minute left for the match to be over.
Earlier in the regulation time, Oman’s Jameel al Yahmadi, the hero of Oman’s semi-final win over Bahrain, smashed a weak spot kick which was saved by Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hassan.
Cheered by a partisan home crowd of around 65,000 fans, the hosts capitalised on a rare defensive blunder from Oman to get the all-important goal in the 24th minute of the match.
A throw-in on the right flank saw a poor clearance from an Omani defender with the ball falling straight to Ibrahim Bayern.
The Iraqi striker unleashed a low volley to the wide of a diving Omani goalkeeper Ibrahim al Mukhaini to put the hosts ahead and send the thousands of fans into raptures.
Oman also had a fair amount of goal-scoring opportunities but Salah al Yahayei was guilty on couple of occasions while Jameel al Yahmadi had a claim of a penalty turned down before the interval.
Oman’s last appearance in the summit clash in 2017-18 ended on a glorious note but this time, their hopes were dashed by a motivated Iraq side.
Earlier, the final was marred by a deadly stampede earlier in the day at the venue as thousands of Iraqi fans turned up at the stadium in an attempt to get into the stadium. Iraqi authorities, according to news media reports, said that at least four people died and dozens injured with more than 50 in critical condition.
After lot of consultations with the Iraqi government closely monitoring the security and safety aspects, the green signal to go ahead with the match was given couple of hours before the kick-off at 8pm, Oman time.
© Muscat Media Group