Gulf Cup review: 5 reasons Oman lifted the trophy

Oman's player Ahmed Mubarak holds the trophy next to his teammates after his team won the Gulf Cup of Nations 2017 final football match between Oman and the UAE at the Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Stadium in Kuwait City on January 5, 2018. / AFP / GIUSEPPE CACACE
Updated 06 January 2018

Gulf Cup review: 5 reasons Oman lifted the trophy

KUWAIT: On Friday, Oman defeated United Arab Emirates in the final of the 2017 Gulf Cup 5-4 on penalties after 120 minutes of goalless football. Arab News chooses 5 reasons why the trophy is going back to Muscat for only the second time ever.

A miserly defense
It is true what they say, defenses do win championships. Oman conceded just before the half-hour into their first game and then went 450 minutes without their well-organized backline being breached at all. In any tournament, that is a winning statistic and even more impressive that the one goal conceded was from the spot. In open play, Oman gave nothing away. It wasn’t just the backline but the whole team defended from the front, pressing with energy, discipline and intelligence; denying opponents any space at all. It was a real team performance.

The UAE's player Ahmed Barman (L) fights for the ball with Oman's player Said al-Raziqi during the Gulf Cup of Nations 2017. (AFP)

Omar Abdulrahman’s big match temperament fails again
The United Arab Emirates star has long been hailed as the biggest talent in Asian football. That may or may not be true but is less debatable is that such talent does not always make the difference it should when the pressure is on and the stakes are high. A last-minute penalty would have secured the trophy but the kick was saved. The same thing happened in the shootout. Players miss from the spot, always have, always will, but given recent failures, it creates more questions about ‘Amoory’.

The UAE's player Omar Abdulrahman reacts during the Gulf Cup of Nations 2017 final after missing one of his two penalties. (AFP)

An old Asian hand on the helm
Oman coach Pim Verbeek knows his way around the Asian block more than most Europeans.The Dutchman took Australia to the 2010 World Cup, three years after leading South Korea to the semifinals of the 2007 Asian Cup and, among other spells, was assistant of United Arab Emirates for a short time in 2005. Verbeek knows how to put a defense together and he produced a string of performances that will be well-remembered for their discipline and organization. It may not always be exciting to watch for the neutral but the thousands of fans in the stadium and many more watching back home enjoyed it immensely.

Oman's Dutch coach Pim Verbeek was instrumental in instilling their resilience that saw them lift this year's trophy. (AFP)

Impressive goalkeeping stocks
Ali Al Habsi has been the most famous number one, internationally, to come out of Asia in recent years thanks to his stints in the English Premier League. His status as Oman’s best-known player is under threat, at least in the region, thanks to Fayeez Rusheidi. The 29 year-old barely put a glove wrong in the tournament, being beaten just one in five games and that was from the spot. He once again showed his ability in crucial moments in the final saving two penalties Strikers often get the MVP awards in tournaments but letting in just one goal in five games is worthy.

Oman's goalkeeper Fayez Issa al-Rusheidi celebrates after his team won the Gulf Cup of Nations 2017 final thanks to his heroics. (AFP)

Every champion, or almost every champion, needs a little bit of good fortune and there was some for Oman and not just because group opponent Saudi Arabia did not bring their big guns. Lady luck smiled a little in the semifinal in a real toe-to-toe encounter with Bahrain. There was just one game scored and that was an own goal with a Bahraini header from a corner. At times in the game, Oman were really under the cosh but held out and there were times fate lent a hand, head or boot.. Winners make the most of any fortune that comes their way. Oman did just that.

Oman's players celebrate after winning the Gulf Cup of Nations 2017. (AFP)


Manchester United and City seek derby delight

Updated 06 December 2019

Manchester United and City seek derby delight

  • Liverpool travel to Bournemouth aiming to surge further clear at the top of the points chart

LONDON: Both sides of the Manchester divide will be hoping some derby delight can add impetus to disappointing seasons when City host United on Saturday, while Liverpool travel to Bournemouth aiming to surge further clear at the top of the Premier League.

Manchester United got a badly needed win for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Wednesday, inflicting a first defeat on Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho as the Portuguese returned to Old Trafford.

The Red Devils were again reliant on Marcus Rashford goals as the England forward struck twice to take his tally to 12 in 13 games for club and country.

“He was strong, direct, taking people on, inside and outside with no fear,” said Solskjaer. “That’s what we want — we want to see boys enjoying themselves.”

There has been precious little for United fans to enjoy this season, but just a fifth Premier League victory in 15 games was enough to lift them up to sixth.

That is still 11 points adrift of third-placed City, despite their own struggles at times.

Pep Guardiola’s men looked more like their old selves in thrashing Burnley 4-1 on Tuesday with Gabriel Jesus stepping up in the absence of the injured Sergio Aguero to score twice.

City have lost just one of six league meetings with United since Guardiola took charge three years ago and cannot afford to slip up if they are to maintain any aspirations of catching Liverpool in the title race. The English champions could kick off at the Etihad 14 points behind the leaders, should Jurgen Klopp’s men continue their scintillating form at Bournemouth earlier on Saturday.

“For the distance we are behind Liverpool it would be crazy to think about the title, we have to think about the derby,” said Guardiola.

Klopp could even afford the luxury of leaving Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah on the bench for a 5-2 thrashing of Everton in the Merseyside derby in midweek.

Both are expected to return for the visit to the south coast, but Klopp may rest some of his stars who did start against Everton ahead of a huge week for the European champions.

Liverpool travel to Salzburg in the Champions League on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat if their defense of the title is not to embarrassingly end in the group stages.

Divock Origi scored twice against Everton and Xherdan Shaqiri struck on his first start of the season to prove Klopp does have the strength in depth to successfully shuffle his pack.

“It’s easy for me to tell them often, very often, how good they are but if they then don’t play it’s not too easy for them to always understand what I say,” said Klopp.

“But if they play and deliver like they did, it’s a very, very important sign for the whole squad.”

Leicester remain Liverpool’s closest challengers, eight points back in second, thanks to a run of eight straight wins in all competitions.

“The team is developing and are proving they have a winning mentality and mindset,” said Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers, who has dismissed speculation linking him with the vacant managerial role at Arsenal.

Next up for the in-form Foxes is a trip to Aston Villa on Sunday.

Villa are one of a host of teams hauled back into the battle to avoid relegation by Southampton’s resurgence with Dean Smith’s men just one point above the drop zone.