UAE great sporting moments - No 18: Omar Abdulrahman comes of age to help clinch 2013 Gulf Cup title

Playmaker scores gem in 2-1 win against Iraq in Bahrain

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Every day over three weeks, The National looks back at the 21 greatest moments in UAE sports history.

When, six years earlier, the UAE had won their first Gulf Cup – and first major trophy of any sort – it had been on home soil in Abu Dhabi. Zayed Sports City was packed to the gills, and support for the host team universal.

The 2013 final might have been played elsewhere, a short skip across the Arabian Gulf in Bahrain, but the atmosphere was scarcely any different.

Four hours before the kick off for the deciding game between UAE and Iraq, Bahrain’s National Stadium in east Riffa was full beyond its 35,000 capacity. Almost everyone inside was Emirati.

To say the country was in the grip of cup fever is understating the point.

President Sheikh Khalifa had chartered six flights from Abu Dhabi so fans could travel for free to the semi-final against Kuwait.

Once that was duly won, everyone else was on board, too, with free flights commissioned again from the capital and Dubai to the final, as well as four from Fujairah, three from Ras Al Khaimah and three from Sharjah.

Even du joined in with the feeling of goodwill, laying on a flight for 350 supporters to Manama.

Many more made the journey – in excess of 800kms – by road, in cars decked with UAE bunting.

On the afternoon of the game, one 4x4 made the trip from nearby the team hotel in the city centre to the stadium with a supporter stood up and waving a flag through the sunroof.

The back windscreen carried the message: “Qatar done, Bahrain done, Oman done, Kuwait done, Iraq download 99 per cent.”

It was confidence boldly worn. And, with Omar Abdulrahman pulling the strings, why not be confident?

The shaggy haired Al Ain playmaker was just 21 at the time, but his star had long been on the rise.

Just six months earlier, he had played at Old Trafford and Wembley Stadium in the Olympics, and caught the eye.

Even though he was still so young, the Gulf Cup final felt like a coronation of sorts.

Certainly, the tournament has thrown up few more memorable goals in its 50-year history than the one he managed against Iraq.

In the 28th minute, Abdulrahman slalomed through the Iraq defence from his starting position on the right hand side.

Thanks to Amoory’s magnificence, the UAE dominated the early phases of the final, but Iraq were by no means easy beats.

Their equaliser, scored by Younis Mahmoud with nine minutes of normal time remaining, was little more than they deserved.

And, judged by the body language of the players on either side in the time between the end of the 90 minutes and extra-time kicking off, it seemed unlikely the winners would be UAE.

Iraq’s players ended their pep talk with a frenzy, almost dancing their way back on to the field, while Mahdi Ali’s men looked spent.

How deceiving that was. In the second half of extra time, Ismail Al Hammadi latched on to a pass by Amer Abdulrahman and fired the UAE to the title.