Anuroop Athiparambath –
MUSCAT, MARCH 28 –
Khalid al Hajri was running without any luck for some time, unable to score in the 23rd Arabian Gulf Cup.
Though Oman emerged champions in Kuwait, the front-line striker was under pressure for his barren run.
And, the Al Suwaiq player ended his goal drought in style in the 88th minute of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifier against Palestine, much to the respite of Omani fans who anxiously waited for a goal.
“We played very well against a strong Palestine team. With the win, we proved that our Gulf Cup win was not all by luck. It was a deserving victory for us,” Khalid al Hajri told the post-match press conference.
Al Hajri capitalised from a defensive error by Palestine after a low cross from the right flank by Saad Suhail al Mukhaini reached him. The lanky Omani forward’s first-time shot was just enough to send the ball over the goalline.
“I thank the fans on behalf of Oman team for their whole-hearted support. The players tried very hard and I am happy to score the crucial goal also,” Al Hajri said.
The Omani forward said he had difficult period without scoring for Oman. “It was difficult not able to find a goal for some matches. But the coach had kept the belief in me and I am happy to hit the target today,” Al Hajri told Oman Daily Observer.
To another query, Al Hajri said he is looking forward to return to scoring ways for Al Suwaiq in the final phase of the Omantel League.
The top Omani league will return to hectic action after a break with 11 rounds (rounds 16-26) happening in only 48 days, from April 14 to May 31.
Oman head coach Pin Verbeek was satisfied after the tough win over Palestine. “Palestine were tough opponents and they played very well. We controlled the match with many shots on goal,” the Dutchman said.
To a query whether Oman were little rusty after a three-month gap on winning Gulf Cup, Verbeek said, “We had a good training camp and our players performed reasonably well after the break.”
“It was a satisfying performance with the final result in our favour,” he said.
Unable to find a goal, the coach had tested all his weapons like Raed Salah, Said al Ruzaiqi and Abdulaziz al Moqbali.
“We clearly want to win and I had to use all my resources. I’m happy that in the end we did our job and topped the group.”
“The Palestine players posed a stiff challenge to us with their strong physical features but our players and were up to the task as they had only very few shots on goal.”
“We had initially given some free space to Palestine. Our defence then stood up to deny entry for their strikers’ to Oman penalty area.”
On rare occasions when Palestine strikers breached the Omani defence, Gulf Cup star goalkeeper Fayez al Rushaidi came to the rescue with brilliant saves.
Palestine’s Bolivian coach Julio Cesar said he was proud of his players for the spirited challenge against Oman in Muscat.
“We were unlucky for not getting a draw. The boys played really well.”
“It was a good tactical game for us and we succeeded almost in it unless for the last two minutes when Oman scored against us,” the Palestine coach said.
“Anyway I am happy for the players and this team is strong enough to create an impression in the Asian Cup finals in the UAE,” the Bolivian, who took over the team in late 2017, said.