BAHRAIN scored a thrilling 3-1 victory over Syria last night to book their berth in the semi-finals of the Women's Football Cup Arabia 2010, being held in the kingdom.
The nationals opened the scoring with a brilliant solo effort from Reem Al Hashimi, but the Syrians equalised through Manar Fayez Al Mhanaa two minutes before the break to pave the way for a cut-throat second-half.
But just before the interval, Syria were reduced to 10 men after Manar Mounir Mounthe was shown red for a rash challenge, and Bahrain made the most of their advantage with their two winning goals in the final 45 minutes.
Shaikha Al Anood Al Khalifa restored their lead on the hour mark with a superb display of skill, before Manar Yaqoob Jassin secured the win with a header and only a quarter-hour remaining in the game.
With the result, the Bahrainis claimed their second triumph in as many matches and are now second in group 'A' of the preliminary round.
Palestine rose to the top of the division after crushing Qatar 18-0 in yesterday's other fixture at Al Ahli.
Caroline Sohgian scored five goals to spearhead the Palestinians, who also claimed a semi-final slot with their victory. Natali Shaheen added another four, as Palestine took a 5-0 lead into half-time before continuing their rout the rest of the way.
Bahrain and Palestine meet in their final preliminary round contest tomorrow. The winner will advance to the final four as group winners, while the losers will march on as runners-up.
"We have achieved our first goal in this tournament, which was to qualify for the semi-finals; now we are determined to win the number one spot and continue our good play," Bahrain head coach Khaled Al Harban told the GDN after the match.
Al Harban was one of the centres of attention in a wild opening half last night that contributed to what was arguably the most exciting game of the competition thus far.
With Bahrain leading 1-0 after Reem made an unstoppable run down the left to score from an acute angle, captain Yasmeen Fayez Fouad was given a yellow card after an errant tackle. Coach Al Harban was incensed by the call, and due to his excessive protests, was banished from the touch line by Egyptian referee Howida Hassan.
That was followed moments later by Syria's lone goal in the 43rd minute - a rocket by Mounthe from nearly 30 yards out that Bahraini goalkeeper Huda Ali Salman was powerless to stop.
The Syrian celebrations were cut short, however, when Manar was sent off the very next minute.
Bahrain came into the second-half a different team and dominated possession from the outset.
Shaikha Al Anood put them back ahead after latching onto a high ball from teammate Manar and then rounding a Syrian defender while sprinting towards goal. Shaikha Al Anood then struck from just outside the box, scoring to make it 2-1 despite pressure from the opposing back line.
Manar then capped the win with Bahrain's third from a corner, won following fine approach play from both Marwa Al Majjri and Muna Injenair. Manar rose above the Syrian defenders and headed home from close range.
By PATRICK SALOMON,GULF DAILY NEWS