Dubai: Alaa Abbas and Ala’a Abdul Zahra scored a goal each to lead Iraq to a 2-0 defeat of the UAE in the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup in Doha, the result taking the Iraqis to the top of Group A.
Both first half goals were a result of an aggressive Iraqi side controlling proceedings at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. Ali Adnan failed to convert a second half penalty for Iraq that came via VAR, but the three points were enough to take the Iraqis to the brink of qualifying for the next phase of the competition.
Ali Mabkhout’s hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Yemen had given the UAE a perfect start in the tournament with Iraq expected to be their first real test and tested they were as the Iraqis 2-1 victors over hosts and Asian champions Qatar in their opening game came hard at them from the start.
The early pressure paid off in the sixth minute with striker Abbas beating UAE goalkeeper Mohammad Al Shamsi with a low shot at his near post after latching on to a pass from Zahra, who had dribbled to the edge of the area on the right.
Not to be outdone, the UAE clawed its way back into the game earning an 18th minute free-kick from a tight angle outside the box on the left. Mabkhout decided to have a go and aimed for goal, his vicious shot being punched clear on the line by Iraq goalkeeper Mohammad Hameed who had conceded the free-kick and picked up a caution in the process.
Ten minutes later, UAE’s Khalfan Mubarak drove at goal from the edge of the area, but his weak shot was collected easily by Hameed.
Al Shamsi did well to thwart Iraq in the 32nd minute diving to his right to block Amjad Attwan from scoring with a 25-yard drive.
Iraq doubled its lead on 37 minutes when goal provider Zahra turned scorer as let Ali Adnan’s cross skew off his head and settle in behind Al Shamsi in the UAE goal.
Iraq continued to dominate proceedings after the break, but found it difficult to make inroads with their first real chance coming in the 62nd when Al Shamsi showed a strong pair of hands to block Attwan from close range.
As their possession increased, the UAE started to threaten, but Iraq dealt well with whatever was thrown at them and in fact were awarded a penalty in the 83rd via VAR for a foul in the box. Ali Adnan’s effort was lousy though and with Al Shamsi guessing correctly it turned out to be a rather easy stop for the UAE ‘keeper.
Qatar and Yemen, the other sides in Group A, were due to play in the late game on Friday.