Doha, Jan 15 (AFP) Ismaeel Abdulatif is the new darlingof Bahrain after he claimed four goals -- including a19-minute first-half hat-trick -- in his team''s 5-2 demolitionof India at the Asian Cup.
The 24-year-old Al Hala foward netted from close range inthe 16th and 19th minutes after Faouzi Aaish''s opener had beencancelled out by Gouramangi Singh and completed his hat-trickwith a slick finish 10 minutes before half-time.
India pulled another goal back through Sunil Chhetribefore Aaish was dismissed after being shown a second yellowcard for diving.
But Abdulatif slammed home a fine individual goal late onat the Al Sadd Stadium to put the game beyond India and sendhimself to the top of the tournament scoring charts.
"It was his time to score," said Bahrain team-mate JayceeJohn, who set up Abdulatif''s second goal.
"He had a lot of chances and if I find that I''m in aposition to set something up and he''s in a better positionthan me to score, then I will give him the ball because wewant to get the goals and the three points for the team."
Abdulatif became the first player to score four goals ina game at the Asian Cup since Iran great Ali Daei againstSouth Korea at the 1996 tournament.
Bahrain coach Salman Sharida was quick to lavish praiseon his one-man match-winner.
"Ismaeel was very good, he''s a very good player," saidSharida.
"He''s experienced, he''s played many games with thenational team and it was his day."
Victory took Bahrain, semi-finalists in 2004, to within apoint of Group C co-leaders Australia and South Korea ahead oftheir final group game against the Socceroos on January 18.
Bahrain can only reach the quarter-finals by defeatingthe pre-tournament favourites, but Sharida believes the side''sperformances so far demonstrate that they are capable of anupset.
"Ordinarily, Korea and Australia would have more chance(of going through) because of their Asian Cup records," hesaid.
"But now we have new hope. We are normally competitiveand all we want is to win the next match. We aren''t thinkingabout how difficult or easy it will be. You have to be strongin order to win."
Bahrain will miss the cultured left foot of Aaish, whohad also scored a penalty in their 2-1 defeat against SouthKorea, but Sharida said his team would be able to cope withoutthe midfielder.
"We''d already planned for every eventuality, we''ve takenthings into consideration and now we''ll plan for Australia,"he said. (AFP) PM