UAE crowned Gulf Cup champions
Manama, January 19, 2013
The UAE were last night crowned champions of the 21st Gulf Cup after defeating former Asian champions Iraq 2-1 in extra-time to claim their second title.
Playing at a jam-packed National Stadium in Riffa, the Emiratis enjoyed some significant support with the thousands of UAE fans flying into the kingdom to attend the final and cheer their side on, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
Substitute Ismail Salem Al Hammadi scored an extra-time winner to lift his side in a hotly contested final, which remained deadlocked at 1-1 after 90 minutes of play.
Al Hammadi netted his decisive strike in the 107th minute of the contest. The talented striker received a pass from Amer Abdulrahman on the right of the penalty area and then coolly slotted the ball past the outstretched arms of Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Sabri into the bottom-left corner of the net.
The result earned the UAE their second title in the history of this prestigious regional competition. They had won their maiden crown in 2007 when they hosted the tournament's 18th edition.
The Iraqis stayed on three titles. It was also the second time they finished as tournament runners-up.
Star winger Omar Abdulrahman had earlier put the UAE ahead with a brilliant effort midway through the first-half of regular time. Iraq's inspirational captain Younes Mahmood then scored the equaliser less than 10 minutes from full time whistle, paving the way for the extra 30-minute session and Al Hammadi's late heroics.
The newly crowned Gulf Cup champions were presented the winners' trophy by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, who was deputised by His Majesty to attend the match and the closing ceremony.
The Iraqis were also awarded their prizes as runners-up. Earlier, Kuwait won the third place by beating Bahrain 6-1.
The 21st Gulf Cup ended in a blaze of colour, light and sound at Bahrain National Stadium last night. Amidst the loud cheering of fans, the UAE beat Iraq 2-1 to become the champion team of the Gulf.
The biggest winner was Bahrain. The enormous number of visitors who thronged Bahrain over the last 15 days underlined that the kingdom has completely recovered from the unrest of more than a year ago.
To crown it all, the kingdom could reap up to $30 million as a windfall from the event, Minister of State for Information Affairs and Bahrain's official spokesperson Sameera Rajab said.
His Majesty King Hamad had deputised HRH Prince Salman to attend the final and the colourful closing ceremony. The Crown Prince presented the UAE team with the trophy.
His Majesty, His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and the Crown Prince congratulated the UAE leaders.
Bahrain's successful hosting of one of the top regional soccer championships is a major vote of confidence, which will be a catalyst to attract Arab and foreign investment, Ms Rajab said.
"I don't have a specific figure but initial indices suggest dividends could even exceed this amount."
Attempts to demonise Bahrain have failed, she told Qatari Al Watan newspaper in an interview.
Massive tailbacks were reported across the kingdom as jubilant soccer fans took to the streets throughout the day to celebrate.
Thousands of fans descended on Bahrain to see their heroes in action, with more than 35 extra chartered flights flying into the kingdom carrying UAE fans alone, sources told the GDN.
Hundreds have driven across from the UAE, they said.
Prices of plane tickets for flights from the UAE soared by up to 200 per cent due to the rush, the sources added.-TradeArabia News Service