Bahrain coach Srecko Juricic of Croatia
BAHRAINIS HOLD IRAN
By RAMI HULAYYEL
BAHRAIN, sponsored by Batelco, were held to a goalless draw by Iran in their opening Group B match of the 2006 World Cup second qualifying round last night at the National Stadium.Playing in front of a capacity crowd of 30,000 cheering spectators, Bahrain proved the better side but a spate of poor finishing saw them throw away a golden opportunity to make a winning start to their dream campaign of booking a place in the World Cup finals for the first time.
"It was a very important match for us. But we missed a good chance of making a winning start," said Bahrain coach Srecko Juricic of Croatia.
"Such matches require great concentration and experience. It was a tactical game and our players played well. Bahrain created more scoring opportunities while Iran showed a good defence and I think the result is fair," added Juricic.
"I am quite satisfied with the overall performance of my players and look forward for our next match against North Korea for which we have a different strategy," added Juricic.
Iran's coach Ivankovic Branco, also of Croatia, said the match was very tough for both the teams.
"Bahrain is a strong team and we tried to find a way through their defence but it was not possible," said Branco.
"It was a very tense and dynamic match although both Bahraini and Iranian players managed to hold their nerve," added Branco.
Bahrain enjoyed better share of the ball and put increasing pressure on the Iranian defence through midfielders Mohammed Salmeen, Rashid Al Dossary and Mohammed Hubail who created most of the home team's moves.
Playing with three strikers - Talal Yousef, Daij Nasser and Salman Isa - Bahrain were always in aggressive mode but the Iranian defence commanded by Rahman Rezaei and Yahya Golmohammadi stood firm.
Bahrain's best chance came on the hour mark when Al Marzooqi's close-range header was tipped over by Iran's goalkeeper Ebrahim Mirzapour.
On the other hand, Iran, who reached the World Cup finals twice in Argentina in 1978 and 20 years later in France, made most of their moves through Asia's 2004 best player Ali Karimi.
But like their hosts they were unable to find the target.
Iran's veteran captain Ali Daei and Vahid Hashemian were kept at bay by Bahrain's defence of Hussain Baba, Abdulla Al Marzooqi and Sayed Mohammed Adnan while Bahrain's goalkeeper Ali Hassan was hardly tested.