A plucky Syria held Qatar to a 2-2 draw to set up a tense final day’s action against Iraq in the Tri-Nation Friendship Championship in Basra yesterday.
Qatar needed a win to wrap up the title after recording a 3-2 win over Iraq in the opener but a fast-paced match saw the team split points at the Basra International Stadium.
The result leaves Qatar on four points, meaning Syria would have to beat Iraq convincingly on Tuesday if they are to gatecrash the former’s party on goal difference.
In case, Syria lose or even draw against Iraq, Qatar would be declared champions of the event which was put together after the ban on Iraqi cities hosting international matches was lifted by FIFA. Iraq are already out of title contention having lost to Qatar in the opener.
A decent crowd in Basra was treated to some spectacular football yesterday as both teams fought tooth and nail to gain the upper hand.
Akram Afif and Almoez Ali of Qatar were particularly a concern for the Syrian defence in the first half, with skipper Hassan al-Haydous providing the bulk of the passes.
However, after a goalless first half, it was Syria who managed to strike first, thanks to a defensive blunder.
A back pass intended for the Qatar goalkeeper Mohamed al-Bakri was intercepted by Omar al-Somah in the 49th minute and the striker easily scored from close with none of the defenders present in the penalty area.
After going close on a couple of occasions, Qatar got the equaliser in the 58th minute with Abdulaziz Hatem’s powerful left-footed shot off an Abdulkarim Hassan pass rocketing into the top left corner of the net past a hapless Syria goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma.
Moments later skipper al-Haydous’ stinging free-kick was blocked by a leaping Alma, but with Qatar upping the pressure the Syrian defence was beginning to look shaky for the first time in the match.
And sure enough it fell in the 72nd when Abdulkarim Hassan freed Akram Afif on the left and the Al Sadd striker blasted the ball from a tight angle past goalkeeper Alma.
But barely had the celebrations died down when Syria hit back to draw level; Zahir al-Midani profiting from another defensive lapse to score from close following a pass from Fahd Youssef.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019