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)


Bucks edge Celtics to level NBA series, Spurs down Warriors

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo tries to drive past Boston Celtics' Al Horford. (AP)
Updated 23 April 2018
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Bucks edge Celtics to level NBA series, Spurs down Warriors

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 27 points for the Bucks
  • Warriors can advance to a second-round series against New Orleans with a home victory on Tuesday

WASHINGTON: Greek star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 27 points, including the decisive tip-in with five seconds remaining, to give the Milwaukee Bucks a 104-102 NBA playoff victory Sunday over Boston.
The triumph pulled the Bucks level with the Celtics at 2-2 in their best-of-seven first round series, which continues Tuesday in Boston.
Malcolm Brogdon’s three-pointer gave the Bucks a 102-100 lead before Boston’s Al Horford made two free throws to equalize. Brogdon then missed a jumper but Antetokounmpo followed with a tip-in and the Bucks denied the Celtics in the final seconds.
“This win is incredible,” Antetokounmpo said. “We kept our composure and fought all the way to the end.”
Khris Middleton added 23 points while Jabari Parker had 16 off the bench for Milwaukee.
Jaylen Brown led Boston with 34 points.
Defending NBA champion Golden State failed to complete a sweep of the San Antonio Spurs, with Manu Ginobili coming off the bench to score 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to spark the hosts over the Warriors 103-90.
“Our defense was more aggressive than the previous games. Our aggressiveness was off the charts,” Ginobili said.
“We need to help each other. Today we did that.
“We moved the ball. We made some shots that helped, but it was about teamwork.”
LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who led from start to finish to trim Golden State’s lead in their Western Conference series to 3-1.
The Warriors, who were led by Kevin Durant’s 34 points and 13 rebounds, can advance to a second-round series against New Orleans with a game-five home victory on Tuesday.
The Spurs remained without coach Gregg Popovich, who missed his second game following the death of his wife, which has left the team heartbroken as well.
“It’s a tough time. We’ve never been through this type of adversity,” said Ginobili. “Our leader is struggling. We’re trying to push through it like he would do if he weren’t at home.”
In later Eastern Conference matchups, Indiana sought a 3-1 series edge over visiting Cleveland while the Washington Wizards, with the worst record of any playoff club, hoped for a home win to level their series with East top seed Toronto.