Oman reach Gulf Cup final with win over Bahrain

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Oman's players hold a picture of Oman's Sultan as they celebrate with their fans after winning the semi-final match against Bahrain. (AFP)
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Oman's Ahmed Mubarak Obaid al-Mahaijri holds his national flag as he celebrates winning the semi-final. (AFP)
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Oman's Ahmed Mubarak Al Mahaijri fights for the ball against Bahrain's Sayed Baqer. (AFP)
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Oman's players celebrate after winning the 2017 Gulf Cup of Nations semi-final football match between Oman and Bahrain at the Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Stadium. (AFP)
Updated 02 January 2018
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Oman reach Gulf Cup final with win over Bahrain

DUBAI: Oman reached the final of the Gulf Cup for the fourth time in their history with a 1-0 win over Bahrain in the first semi-final in Kuwait’s Jaber International Stadium.
Pim Verbeek’s side needed a slice of luck to make it through — the only goal of the game was an own goal after 29 minutes from Mahdi Abdul Jabber — and they defended for their lives at times, but they held on after keeping a third clean sheet in four matches and will now contest Friday’s final in Kuwait City. They won the tournament for the first and only time in 2009 and this group of players now has a chance to emulate the golden generation of Ali Al-Habsi and Co. 
Oman’s Ministry of Sports Affairs teamed up with the Majlis Al Shura and Oman’s air force to provide eight free flights so fans could watch the team in action and they were dancing in the stands at the final whistle, as the players celebrated with a picture of the Sultan of Oman.
Verbeek’s side dominated possession throughout the first half of the semi-final and came close to opening the scoring on multiple occasions. First, it was Mohsen Johar who fired just wide of the post with his left foot from the edge of the area.
Veteran Ahmed Mubarak was present in each of Oman’s past three appearances at the Gulf Cup final, lifting the trophy in 2009. Captaining the side this time around, he attempted to break the deadlock when he drilled his angled free-kick low and past the wall, but goalkeeper Sayed Alawi came to the rescue.
Finally, Bahrain buckled under the pressure, and it was their own man Mahdi Abdul Jabber who beat Alawi. Bahrain’s No. 9 attempted to clear Johar’s in-swinging corner kick at the near post, but his header went straight past his own goalkeeper to put Oman in the lead.
Former Australia manager Verbeek has built a solid defensive unit in Oman, and once they took the lead, his men retreated to defend their area and did so to perfection.
Bahrain took the initiative after the goal, but were unable to create any clear-cut chances in the remainder of the first half. Their best effort was a long-range shot from Dhia Saeed that sailed high above the Omani goal.
Midfielder Jamal Rashid had scored two of Bahrain’s three goals in the tournament prior to the Oman encounter, but an injury prevented him from featuring in the semifinal. In his absence, coach Miroslav Soukup played all his attacking cards after the restart as Bahrain desperately attempted to come back into the game.
Midfielder Ibrahim Habib was brought on at half-time to replace defender Ahmed Abdullah and his impact on the game was noticed instantly. Habib ran riot in the Omani defense and came within a whisker of scoring on two occasions. Goalkeeper Fayez Al Rashidi put in a man-of-the-match display as he saved wave after wave of Bahraini attack, his personal highlight a lightning quick reflex save to deny Habib’s header from six yards out. The great Al-Habsi, who was in goal the last time Oman won it, would have been proud.
Oman: Fayez Al-Rashidi, Saad Suhail, Fahmy Saeed, Mohamed Al-Musallami, Ali Al-Busaidi, Ahmed Mubarak, Hareb Al-Saadi, Jameel Al-Yahmadi, Raed Ibrahim, Mohsen Johar, Khaled Al-Hajjeri
Bahrain: Sayed Alawi, Waleed Al-Hayam, Sayed Mahdi Baqer, Ahmed Abdullah, Sayed Reda Eisa, Abdulwahab Ali, Kameel Al-Aswad, Dhia Saeed, Abdulla Abdu, Ali Madan, Mahdi Abdul Jabbar
Referee: Hettikamkanamge Perera (Sri Lanka)


Pakistan beat Afghanistan in last over finish

Bangladesh's Mahmudullah, right, bats during the one day international cricket match of Asia Cup between Bangladesh and Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Pakistan beat Afghanistan in last over finish

  • Hashmatullah Shahidi missed out on a maiden hundred by a mere three runs but still steered Afghanistan to a challenging 257-6

DUBAI: Experienced batsman Shoaib Malik hit a six and a boundary to pull off a sensational last over three wicket win for Pakistan against a spirited Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Malik pulled the second ball of the final over by paceman Aftab Alam over the deep square leg boundary and then whacked the next to deep fine leg for a boundary as Pakistan pulled off a nerve-wracking win in 49.3 overs at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Pakistan, cashing a stiff 258-run target, were home and dry to start the Super Four Stage with a much needed win and now face arch rivals India in Dubai on Sunday.
Hashmatullah Shahidi missed out on a maiden hundred by a mere three runs but still steered Afghanistan to a challenging 257-6.
Pakistan were off to a disastrous start when opener Fakhar Zaman was trapped leg-before off the sixth ball of the innings by spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for nought.
Imam-ul-Haq scored a 104-ball 80 with five boundaries and a six while Babar Azam knocked an attractive 94-ball 66 with four boundaries and a six during their innings repairing the 154-run stand for the second wicket.
But both fell within the space of four runs as spinner Rashid Khan (3-46) brought Afghanistan back in the game with the asking rate getting stiffer, as Pakistan needed 42 off the final five overs.
Despite losing skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (eight), Asif Ali (seven) and Mohammad Nawaz (ten), Malik kept his cool to sop Afghanistan from posting their third straight win after beating Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the first round.
Earlier, Shahidi hit three consecutive boundaries in the final over off Usman Shinwari, but failed to get to three figures off the last delivery after Afghanistan won the toss and batted.
Shahidi finished with a brilliantly-paced 118-ball 97 not out, and added 94 for the fourth wicket with his skipper Asghar Afghan, who smashed five sixes and two fours in his 56-ball 67.
But it was Shahidi who held one end against Pakistan’s bowling in an innings which featured seven boundaries after left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz (3-57) had put the brakes on Afghanistan’s early progress.
Shahidi had added 63 for the third wicket with Rahmat Shah who scored a measured 36.
The total is an improvement by Afghanistan after scoring 249 and 255 in their previous two wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Pakistani fielders dropped four catches — three off debutant paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi who finished with 2-38.
India beat Bangladesh by seven wickets in Dubai and now meet Pakistan on Sunday, also in Dubai. Afghanistan and Bangladesh meet in Abu Dhabi on the same day.
Top two teams from the Super Four Stages will play the final in Dubai on September 28.