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Bahrainis hold Lebanon

BAHRAIN were impressive defensively but lacked cohesion on attack as they played Lebanon to a goalless draw last night in an international friendly match at the National Stadium in Riffa.

The game was part of both teams' preparations for their upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifying matches next week. The nationals host Qatar in a group 'D' encounter on Friday, while the Lebanese play at home against Thailand in group 'B' that same evening.

The Qataris played their own friendly game in Doha yesterday against the Thais. They won 1-0 after Khalfan Ibrahim Khalfan scored a 56th-minute winner.

Last night's fixture for Bahrain was the national team's only tune-up prior to facing their Gulf rivals.

Head coach Gabriel Calderon of Argentina was satisfied with his team's performance against the Lebanese, but admitted that there is still plenty of room to get better.

"In defence we played very well tonight, but on offence we had too many new players who had not yet played with our national team before," Calderon told the GDN after the match.

"There may have been a little pressure on some of them because they wanted to play well in the match, and this is normal."

Calderon admitted that, with less than a week to go before they face Qatar, it is nearly impossible to get the team to its highest possible level.

"Coming into national team training, the players were weak physically so they did not arrive at the best level," Calderon said. "They are starting to get a little better, but we have very little time together because of their commitments with their clubs.

"Because of this, I don't think we can be 100 per cent ready for Qatar. It is impossible in one week to reach the best level for any team.

"Still, we will play for a win. We will try our best."

Calderon began yesterday's match with a few new faces including Ali Khalil, Masoud Qambar, Mohammed Al Rumaihi and Sayed Ali Isa all in the first 11. Mainstays Faouzi Aaish, Sayed Dhiya Saeed and skipper Mohammed Hussain also started, while continuing to build on their international experience were Abdulla Mubarak, Abdulwahab Ali and Saad Al Amer.

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Goalkeeper Sayed Mohammed Jaffar was back between the posts after being sidelined for a few weeks due to injury.

Jaffar made several key saves for the hosts in the second half when Lebanon threatened at least thrice to move ahead.

The Bahrainis also had two of their best chances late in the game. Saeed managed to free himself momentarily from his Lebanese markers at the tip of the box but his shot was kicked away to safety by a Lebanon defender.

Later, substitute Jamal Rashed had his own fine effort stopped by the opposing goalkeeper to keep things at nil-nil.

Bahrain's frustrations may have gotten to them in the end, as two players were given their marching orders on the stroke of the final whistle.

Abdulla Amman, another second-half substitute, was given a red card after the referee judged that he deliberately handled the ball to stop a pass as Lebanon were about to make a quick counter-attack. Aaish was then also shown red for persistently arguing with the referee at the end of the contest. He had to be restrained by teammates as they walked back into the locker rooms.

Last night's scoreless friendly was followed by an informal match between the national team and their younger counterparts on the under-23 Olympic squad, who are coached by Englishman Anthony Hudson.

The senior squad beat their younger rivals 4-0, with three of their goals coming before half-time.

Bahrain's national team continues their training under Calderon today.



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