Bahrain produce another escape act
Tim Maitland in Beijing
Just as they did against China in their opening match of the Asian Cup, just when everything seemed lost, Bahrain produced a last-minute equaliser to hold Qatar 1-1 in the rain-swept Workers' Stadium.
Just as they did against China, who were due to play Indonesia in last night's later game, Bahrain got the result they deserved, this time thanks to an injury-time header from Mohamed Hubail.
Qatar, who sacked their French coach Philippe Troussier after losing their opener to Indonesia 2-1, never deserved to be in front. Particularly as their 58th-minute penalty, converted by Wesam Rizik, appeared controversial to say the least.
Up until that point the match had been the most uneventful of the tournament so far.
In only the second minute a goal-bound header from Bahrain's Mohammed Salmeen was hacked off the line by a desperate Selman Mesbeh.
Qatar's young side might have been distracted by the pantomime surrounding Troussier, who chose the eve of the Asian Cup to announce his imminent departure, perhaps trying to jump before he was pushed, only to discover after the opening defeat against Indonesia that his exit was to be immediate.
The fact that his replacement Saeed Al Mesned was already in China, but not listed in Qatar's official delegation, only adds to the intrigue. Five changes to Troussier's line-up can only have added to the confusion.
Quite why Bahrain failed to perform, after dominating for 60 minutes of their 2-2 draw with the hosts, is another question. Suffice to say it wasn't until the 51st minute, when Bahrain's Hussain Ali tested Qasem Burhan, that either keeper was forced to make a save worthy of the name.
When Talal Yusuf fired in a long-range effort two minutes afterwards it looked for all the world that Bahrain were taking control of the match.
Then Qatar substitute broke from halfway, trailed closely by Hassan Al Mosawi who tracked him into the box before making what appeared to be a well-timed challenge.
Apparently from 40 yards away it didn't appear that way, because Japanese referee Kamikawa Toru, who was lagging far behind the breakaway, pointed to the spot. Rizik converted comfortably. Injustice was done.
To add insult to injury, immediately after the restart Ghazi Al Kawari saw his cross thud against the far post and just after the hour mark a whistle that Bahrain must have hoped signalled a spot-kick of their own, instead, quite rightly, resulted in a card for diving shown to Duaij Naser.
To be fair to Toru, he also had the guts to book Burhan for furthering one of the most irritating traits of Arab football's melodramatic goalkeeping.
Having been carded for turning a routine injury into a soap opera, Burhan did acrobatically tip Sayed Mohamed's 88th-minute header over and that, together with Hussain Baba's volley over from the resulting corner, appeared to be Bahrain's last chance.
Then in added time captain Mohamed Juma sent in a long hopeful ball and Hubail's looping header got Bahrain their just deserts.