Oman reach Gulf Cup final with win over Bahrain
Oman reach Gulf Cup final with win over Bahrain
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)
‘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.”