BAHRAIN suffered an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Yemen last night in a non-bearing Asian Cup qualifying match in Sana'a, writes PATRICK SALOMON.
Having already secured their place in next year's continental showcase, the Bahrainis were playing with a young, inexperienced squad made up mostly of their up-and-coming internationals.
They gave up two goals to Yemeni skipper Ali Al Nono in an eventful first half and then ceded a third to substitute Mohammed Al Abidi four minutes from time to cap a lacklustre performance.
The loss was Bahrain's first in five games in qualifying group 'A'. It was also the kingdom's first-ever defeat to Yemen in eight meetings at the international level, according to statistics made available by Fifa.
Yemen came away only with their second win in five matches and avenged their 4-0 defeat to the Bahrainis in Manama last November. They improved to six points and stayed ahead of scoreless Hong Kong in the group.
Missing all but a handful of their national team regulars, Bahrain appeared a completely different team from the opening kick-off. They yielded their first goal after just five minutes, when poor marking allowed Al Nono to head in a cross from Khaled Hassan Baleid.
Al Nono's header sailed over Bahrain's number two goalkeeper Abbas Ahmed and into the top-right corner of goal, reducing Ahmed to a mere spectator.
The opener stunned the Bahrainis but somewhat woke them up from their uninspiring play. Ismaeel Abdulateef and Hussain Ali had chances, but both were off target and they failed to truly trouble Yemen goalkeeper Salem Abdulla Awadh.
Bahrain controlled possession but were not creating any realistic opportunities, as the Yemeni defence were also holding their own. The Bahraini backline, meanwhile, remained unsteady, and it eventually cost them another Al Nono goal in the 25th minute.
The in-form striker was gifted the ball right in the face of goal after Saleh Abdulhameed failed to clear. He was left with a one-on-one against a charging Ahmed, and the Yemeni outsmarted his Bahraini counterpart with a short lob into the net to make it 2-0.
Bahrain had dug themselves into a deep hole, but despite their lack of flair, continued to press the hosts.
Ali had likely their best chance in the first half to score, but was stopped twice on the same play. After a good approach, Ali had a shot cleared on the line by defender Zaher Mohammed Al Fadhli. The ball rebounded to him, but his second attempt was parlayed to safety by Awadh, who recovered well after previously being out of position.
In the second half, Bahrain's chances were few and far between. Abdulla Al Dakheel was introduced to try to inject some life into the Bahrain attack, but not even he could find a clear-cut chance.
They were denied another goal by an inspired Awadh in the 69th minute, when he stopped a long Abdullateef shot that was on target, and then blocked the rebound attempt directly in front of goal by Bahrain's Hussain Salman Makki.
That paved the way for Yemen's third, when the Bahraini defence was again caught napping. Yemen's Hamada Al Zubairi slotted a perfect low cross into the box that Al Abidi needed only to tap in.