12/2/2019 7:50:11 PM

Iraq ensure Group A top spot with hard-fought draw

Iraq ensure Group A top spot with hard-fought draw

Doha, Qatar: Ten-man Iraq ensured they moved into semifinals of the Gulf Cup as Group A champions after a hard-fought draw against Yemen at Al Duhail Stadium on Monday.

Iraq finished with seven points while Asian champions Qatar, who defeated UAE 4-2 in the other match in the group, also entered the last four.

After a bright start during which they stroke the ball around confidently and freely in Yemen half, Iraq suffered a big shock when defender Mostafa Maslukhi was shown a straight red card for dangerous play.

Referee Ahmed Alali did not punish the Iraqi defender initially but after a long VAR delay, he opted to sent Maslukhi off for the high boot challenge on Yemen's Aiman's Al Hagri.

The red card totally disrupted Iraq's momentum, especially in the first half which was a scrappy affair, with plenty of tackles from both sides and no clear chances or shots on goal.

Yemen had a great chance to open the scoring in the 57th minute after Abdulwasea Al Matari found Nasser Al Gahwashi inside the box and the Iraq striker was unlucky to see his goalbound shot deflected out for a corner.

Moments later Yemen thought they had scored their first goal of the tournament as Iraq defence failed to clear the corner and Abdulwasea Al Matari took advantage with a measured shot into the top corner.

Yemen fans and players celebrated wildly but their joy was shortlived as the goal was ruled out by VAR for a foul during the build-up.

Despite playing with 10 men for the most part of the match, Iraq had a period of sustained pressure midway through the second half, but they failed to properly test Yemen goalkeeper Mohammed Ayash.

Iraq finally drew a save from Ayash when Ali Atiyah met Surgham Al Quraishi's freekick with a glancing header but it did not make much of difference.

In the semis on Thursday, Iraq will take the second-placed team from Group B where all four sides have a chance of progressing.


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