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Sun 6 Sep 2009 07:48 AM

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Bahrain, Saudi draw World Cup play-off

Gulf teams face second leg in Riyadh for right to play New Zealand for place in South Africa 2010.

Bahrain, Saudi draw World Cup play-off
CUP ACTION: Bahraini player Abdullah Isamil Baba, left, is chased by Saudi Abdullah Mohammed during their 2010 World Cup qualifying group football match in Manama. (AFP)

Hosts Bahrain kept their World Cup hopes alive holding Saudi Arabia to a goalless draw in the first-leg of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifying play-off clash.

The two neighbouring Gulf states will now clash on Wednesday in the second-leg in Riyadh and the winner will take on Oceania champions New Zealand for a place in the 2010 finals.

Saudi Arabia were lucky to get away on level terms after having been at the receiving end for most of the second-half.

Bahrain should have sealed this match by at least a three-goal margin which would have boosted their chances of booking a berth in a maiden World Cup.

But lack of firepower when it mattered most undid all their good work.

Bahrain's Czech coach Milan Macala refused to believe that his team had thrown away their opportunity.

"It was a very tough game and from our side we tried to get the best result we could in 90 minutes," said the 65-year-old.

"We now have an uphill task and have very little time to prepare. But we must do what we can to win there. Of course, we will try our best and give everything we have in order to qualify.

"We had four or five opportunities, but failed to capitalise. We may have done with a bit of luck, but with all those opportunities and 15 corners, still we could not score. Good teams score with one or two chances."

Saudis Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro played down suggestions of his team now holding a clear advantage.

"The score is still 0-0. We could have used a goal here but it was a very tough match," he said.

Bahrain created more chances, keeping Saudi goalkeeper Ali Waleed busy.

On the other hand, the Saudis, who are bidding for a fifth successive World Cup slot, enjoyed better possession but missed key striker Naif Hazazi, who is out for close to six months through injury.

Striker Yasser Al Qahtani had the team's best chance midway through the first-half but his move down the centre was firmly halted.

Bahrain began on a positive note with the tall Sayed Mohammed Adnan striking the near post with a trademark shot.

Ahmed Hussain kept up the pressure, beating defenders Abdulla Shuhail and Osama Hawsawi in the penalty area but his shot lacked pace and direction.

Adnan was back in the thick of action with a powerful long ranger which was well tipped over by goalkeeper Waleed.

The Bahrainis kept pressing and pushing forward but continued to run out of steam when it came to making that vital final move.

The same pattern continued in the second-half with Bahrain proving more dangerous and determined while the Saudis seemed content to play within themselves and not concede anything.

Bahrain came closest to scoring in the 55th minute when the hardworking Salman Isa made a clever move down the left and moved into the penalty area with a cunning change of pace.

But Latif Ismaeel failed to connect his centre with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Bahrain continued to threaten and in injury time came agonizingly close to making the breakthrough.

But this time substitute Jaycee John's attempt struck goalkeeper Waleed's leg and went wide of the far post.

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