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Dubai: Bahrain stunned favourites Saudi Arabia in the Gulf Cup final 1-0 in Doha on Sunday night to claim their first ever title in the tournament.
Both finalists, along with the UAE, only decided to enter the tournament last month — expanding the number of teams from five to eight.
While the UAe exited in the group stages — a string of results that ultimately cost coach Bert Van Marwijk his job — the other two late entrants went all the way to the final showdown, accounting for hosts Qatar and regional heavyweights along the way.
With pockets of passionate fans representing both nations in Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium cheering on their players, it was a solitary goal from Bahrain’s Mohammad Al Romaihi in the 69th minute that proved the difference.
The underdogs withstood a barrage of attacks from the Saudis, and when they did get a sight of goal, Salem Al Dawsari was denied by the crossbar and Salman Al Faraj missed a penalty after Mahe Al Humaidan fouled Al Dawsari in the penalty area.
In the final minutes, Saudi Arabi threw everything at Bahrain in desperate hope of an equaliser, but an impressive backline stood firm and they held on for a famous victory, having finished runners-up on four earlier occasions.
The Saudi players — who had defeated Bahrain 2-0 in the group stages — were left empty-handed as Bahrain ran to their fans to begin a long night of celebrations and the silverware to prove their achievement.
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