Oman’s captain Ahmed Mubarak reaches Gulf Cup final, becomes a father

Oman's Ahmed Mubarak was named man of the match in his side's semifinal victory over Bahrain in the Gulf Cup. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Oman’s captain Ahmed Mubarak reaches Gulf Cup final, becomes a father

DUBAI: Oman captain Ahmed Mubarak had triple reason to celebrate on Tuesday. He reached the Gulf Cup final, was named man of the match and became a father.
“I dedicate this win to my dear wife and my new born baby,” he said following Oman’s 1-0 victory over Bahrain in Kuwait. “We haven’t named him yet, so we have to look into this now. I was a bit nervous but I finally received the good news [about becoming a father] before the match. I am glad to have been named man of the match. Credit goes to my teammates who have all fought hard and helped me play well. Bahrain were a strong team and applied a lot of pressure on us, especially in the second half, but we managed to get the all-important win.”
Naming his son will probably be the easier task for Mubarak than facing neighbors and favorites UAE in Friday’s final. The two contested the 2007 final, with the Whites lifting the trophy on that occasion. Oman will be out for revenge.
Mubarak has fond memories of facing the UAE on Kuwaiti soil, having scored his maiden international goal in a 2-0 win against the Whites at the 2003 Gulf Cup. He is optimistic of repeating the result. “I hope I can bring the trophy home,” he said. “It would be a great gift for my family and for our fans.”
The veteran midfielder, 32, was a key cog in the Oman sides that reached the Gulf Cup final in 2004 and 2007, losing twice before finally winning the title on home turf in 2009 alongside the likes of goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.
Al-Habsi missed the opportunity to make a fourth appearance in the final, as his club side Al-Hilal refused to make him available for national team duty, but his replacement Fayez Al-Rashidi has been one of the stars of the tournament.
Oman’s No. 18 is yet to concede a single goal from open play in the tournament. In fact, the only player to beat him was UAE’s Ali Mabkhout from the spot in the opening match. Al-Rashidi’s heroics between the sticks ensured Al-Habsi was missed by the Reds.
“Whether it is me or Ali, we all just try to represent the Sultanate in the best way possible,” said Rashidi. “I am thankful that I was able to step up and perform so well in this tournament. We did a good job against a difficult Bahrain side and made it to the final. I would like to thank our fans who turned out in good numbers and supported us. I hope we see even more fans in the final. We are now very close to the title and we will give our best to win on Friday and do our fans proud.”


Messi scores hat-trick as Barcelona thrash PSV

Updated 19 September 2018
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Messi scores hat-trick as Barcelona thrash PSV

  • Dembele’s goal was worthy of deciding any match but this was Messi’s night
  • Messi would have his second and third before the end, and a record eighth Champions League treble

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi pictures the Champions League ending with him hoisting the trophy and it began with him scoring a hat-trick on Tuesday as Barcelona put four goals past PSV Eindhoven.
An early kick-off at Camp Nou meant that before most of the tournament’s teams had even named their line-ups, Messi was up and running, his sumptuous free-kick from the edge of the area nestling in the top corner, exactly where it was intended.
Messi would have his second and third before the end, and a record eighth Champions League treble, but the game was up by then thanks to a superb strike from the excellent Ousmane Dembele.
Only when Barca were three ahead was Samuel Umtiti sent off for a second yellow card, meaning he will miss the trip to Wembley to face Tottenham next month. Even with 10 men, Messi completed his set for a 4-0 win.
Dembele’s goal was worthy of deciding any match but this was Messi’s night. After a miserable World Cup trying to retrieve the irretrievable Argentina, Barcelona’s now-captain proved his quality again to any doubters that are left.
Four goals already in La Liga, seven overall, neither age nor Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from Spain appear to have taken the edge off.
“Normally if you score a hat-trick you frame it,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde. “But he makes the extraordinary routine.”
Even if Messi remains as good as ever, his team will need others to step up. Philippe Coutinho was impressive here and, after a difficult debut campaign, Dembele is finding his rhythm, and his place.
“Just as there is room for players that pass, there must be others that can make things happen,” Valverde said.
The 21-year-old’s driving run earned Messi his free-kick while a sizzling shot brought the goal his bustling display deserved.
Perhaps more importantly, this victory was a clean slate for Barcelona.
It was exactly 23 weeks ago that Roma pulled off one of the greatest comebacks ever seen in this competition and sent the club into a depth of disappointment that, in truth, not even winning the double could alleviate.
Instead, Madrid rubbed salt into the wound by making it look easy and winning their third in a row. “It is a thorn in our side,” Luis Suarez said. “It’s time to win the Champions League,” said Messi.
PSV’s coach Mark van Bommel knows what it feels like to walk out at the Camp Nou — he had a successful, albeit short, spell playing for Barca — but few of his players did.
Nick Viergever was one of them, for Ajax in 2014, but it was his rash challenge on Dembele in the 31st minute that conceded the free-kick a yard outside the penalty area.
Messi sized it up and sent it spinning away from the hand of Jeroen Zoet and into the top corner. It was his eighth free-kick scored in 2018. He has never scored more in a year.
The contest bristled at the start of the second half. Suarez’s delightful chip beat Zoet but not the crossbar. PSV were still in it and could have equalized when Hirving Lozano’s finish was blocked, crucially, by Gerard Pique.
Then three goals arrived in 15 minutes. First Dembele, after leaving two PSV midfielders for dead with a dragback, unleashed into the bottom corner. Van Bommel’s destructive instincts kicked in. “We should have stopped him,” he said.
Messi then latched onto a lob from Ivan Rakitic to slot home before Umtiti was sent off for a cynical block on Lozano.
It made no difference. Suarez set up Messi’s third, a brilliant flick allowing his captain the last word, after he had also had the first.