Oman shock Saudi Arabia in Gulf Cup clash

Oman's team celebrate after scoring a goal during the 2017 Gulf Cup of Nations football match between Saudi and Oman at the Kuwait Stadium in Kuwait City on December 28, 2017. / AFP / GIUSEPPE CACACE
Updated 29 December 2017

Oman shock Saudi Arabia in Gulf Cup clash

KUWAIT CITY: Saudi Arabia missed out on a Gulf Cup semi-final place after a 2-0 defeat to Oman in Kuwait on Thursday. 

Although the Saudis started well, Oman soon came back into the match with promising bursts on the break. Their first chance came when the ball came in from the left and was met by Abdul Aziz Al-Muqbali, but he failed to make a proper connection.

That bright start soon started to fade as Saudi Arabia came back into the match and started to force the Omanis deep into their own half. Despite their dominance and superior possession, Saudi Arabia’s players failed to find a breakthrough in the first half.

They were left to rue that lack of creativity as Oman came out after the half-time break much the better side and in the 58th minute took a surprise lead. Said Salim, a second-half substitute for Al-Muqbali, put away a rebound after Assaf Al-Qarni had saved the initial shot.

The shock of going behind seemed to shake the Saudi Arabian players into action as with less than half-an-hour to go, they started to put pressure on the Omani defense. As they searched for the equalizer, however, Oman remained dangerous on the break.

As desperation grew among the Saudi Arabian ranks, they continued pressing forward and thought they had found the equalizer in the 75th minute, only for the assistant referee to rule it out for offside.

It got worse for Saudi Arabia soon after, Oman added a second to take the game beyond their reach. Al-Mushaifri’s cross was met and buried by Khalid Khalifa Al-Hajri.

In spite of sustained pressure, another disallowed goal and two late penalty shouts Saudi were unable to find a goal.

Oman are joined in the semi-finals by UAE, who were held to a goalless draw by hosts Kuwait in Thursday’s other match. Iraq, Bahrain and Qatar will fight it out on Friday for the remaining two semi-final spots.

‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 37 min 15 sec ago

‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”