January 07 2014 10:54 PM

NEW YEAR, NEW START: Qatar players celebrate on the podium with the trophy after winning their maiden WAFF trophy in the eighth edition of the tournament at the Al Saad Stadium yesterday. Qatar beat Jordan 2-0. (Reuters)

Brilliant Boualem Koukhi struck a double to help Qatar down Jordan 2-0 and win their maiden
West Asia Football Federation (WAFF) Championship at the Al Sadd stadium here yesterday.

After a goalless first half, the hosts took the lead in the 55th minute when Koukhi’s curling free-kick from the left nestled into the right corner of the goal after deflecting off a defender’s head.

The goal rejuvenated the hosts as they were kept under control by Jordan during the entire first half.

Then in the 87th minute, the 23-year-old midfielder scored his and the team’s second goal when he tapped a cross pass from Mohamed Ismail into the net.

This was the third consecutive double by the hard-working midfielder from Algeria. He scored twice against Saudi Arabia in the group stage and twice against Kuwait in the semi-final.

“I am happy for the team as they won the title. It was a good tournament for the growth of football in the region as it has provided a platform to young talent,” Qatar coach Djamal Balmadi said.

Talking about his future plans, he said: “At this moment my future is not that
important. The most important thing
was to perform to the best of the abilities and we did it.”

Khouki, one of the most outstanding players in the tournament, pepped up the attack with his excellent footwork and control. Qatar were looked virtually unstoppable in the second half and led a fierce onslaught on the visitors who in the end were left clueless.

Commenting on Koukhi’s performance in the tournament, Balmadi said: “He is the best player of the side and he performed to expectations.”

The beginning was not that bad for
Jordan, who proved a hard nut to crack and played with a lot of vigour and enthusiasm, but in the end they missed a player
like Khoukhi.

Left-winger Saleh Fayiz Saleh produced a lot of exciting runs and was instrumental in leading the attack, but those were not enough to test the resolute Qatari defence, who didn’t press any panic button.

In the end, the visitors made some frantic efforts to return into the match, but Rajaei Fadel’s snap shot was too wide.

Qatar’s striker Ali Asad was declared the ‘Best Player of the Tournament’, while Boualem Koukhi was adjudged the ‘Best Goal-scorer’. Bahrain goalkeeper Syed Mohamed Abbas was adjudged the ‘Best Goalkeeper’ of the championship.

Earlier in the day, Bahrain defeated Kuwait 3-2 in a penalty shootout to finish third in the championship. Bahrain finished fourth in the last edition of the championship. Both the teams failed to score in regular time and the extra-time also failed to break the deadlock.

Jordan qualified for the final after beating Bahrain 1-0 in Saturday’s semi-final. The solitary goal of the match was an own-goal by Bahrain’s Mohamed Duaij. Qatar won against Kuwait 3-0 in the other semi-final.

It was definitely not Jordan’s day as thousands of their fans went back home dejected and disappointed. In the group stage, Jordan beat Kuwait 2-1 and held Lebanon 0-0, while Qatar defeated Palestine 1-0, and Saudi 4-1. The event included nine teams with the top team from each group as well as the best second-placed team entering the semis.

Jordan lost in the first round of the championship in 2012.

Their best result at the WAFC, which was initiated by Jordan in 2000, was runners-up finishes in 2002 and 2008.

Iran have won the title a maximum four times, while Iraq won the title once, in 2002. Kuwait won in 2010 and Syria in 2012.

Jordan next play Oman on January 31, Singapore on February 4 and Syria on March 5 in the Asia Cup 2015 qualifiers.

Jordan are currently second in Asian Cup Group A qualifiers after they held Oman 0-0 and Syria 1-1. They also defeated Singapore 4-0 in Leg 1.


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