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September 11, 2009

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Home » Sports » Soccer

Bahrain to face Kiwis in playoff

ISMAIL Abdullatif's last-minute equalizer against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday earned Bahrain a playoff against New Zealand and another shot at qualifying for next year's World Cup.

Abdullatif scored in the third and last minute of injury time to force a 2-2 draw, enough for Bahrain to advance on the away-goals rule to a two-legged playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand on October 10 and November 14.

Bahrain, which has never qualified for the World Cup - missing out at the intercontinental playoff stage last time following a 1-2 aggregate loss to Trinidad and Tobago - ended Saudi Arabia's run of four straight World Cup appearances.

The Saudis, who missed out an automatic qualifying through Asia due to scoreless home draw against North Korea in July, had been literally seconds away from advancing.

Nasser Al Shamrani gave host the lead after 13 minutes at Riyadh's King Fahd Stadium but Jaycee John equalized three minutes before halftime.

Hamad Al Montashiri broke the 1-1 deadlock in the first minute of injury time and, with Saudi fans celebrating an apparent progression, Abdullatif headed in Salman Isa's corner kick for the draw. The first match of the final Asian qualifier ended in a scoreless draw at Manama.

Bahrain will now host New Zealand next month before traveling to Wellington for the return match in November.

Bahrain attacked from the start and almost took the lead after three minutes when defender Faouzi Aaish had a free-kick tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Waleed Abdulla.

The home side had a chance two minutes later through 2007 Asian player of the year Yasser Al Qahtani, who collected a good cross from 2009 Saudi league top scorer Al Shamrani but had his shot stopped by Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Mohammed Jaffer.

Saudi did capitalize on its next opportunistic chance when Al Qahtani started the initiative with a neat pass to Mohammed Noor, who set up the unmarked Al Shamrani, who scored despite late tackle from two Bahraini defenders

The Saudis had further chances before Bahrain's Belgium-based striker John scored from a right-wing cross by Abdulla Omar.


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