Malaysia see off Oman’s spirited challenge

MUSCAT, Oct 20 – Rashad al Fazari netted Oman’s first ever goal in the Asian Champions Trophy as Malaysia overcame a spirited challenge from the hosts to prevail 3-1 in Muscat, late on Friday. At the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, the Sultanate held the Asian Games 2018 runner’s-up goalless till the first 25 minutes. And Oman goalkeeper Fahad al Noufali was selected as the man-of-the-match for his brilliant performance in the match. “It is a great moment in my career. I feel very happy. Our players have tried their best in the match,” Al Noufali, who made some good saves to deny Malaysia, told Oman Observer.

Oman goalkeeper Fahad al Noufali with the man-of-the-match award.

Oman coach Tahir Zaman said the players have responded well after a 11-0 drubbing against heavyweights India in their opening game. “The players have staged a good comeback after the big defeat in the first match. I had asked the players to show their capability in the match against Malaysia.” “The boys came out well and goalkeeper Fahad had a good game. Hopefully the players will be even better in the next game,” the former Pakistan international said. Malaysia scored the first goal in the 26th minute through a field goal from Firhan Ashari. Oman restored parity in the 34th minute by converting a penalty stroke. Rashad al Fazari’s shot didn’t give any chance to the Malaysian goalkeeper Hairi Rahman.

In the fourth quarter, Malaysia attacked with more purpose and took the lead in the 46th minute when Tengku Tajuddin found the target with a well finished field goal. After the goal, the Malaysians pressed hard and Faizal Saari slotted in two minutes later. Malaysia made full use of a free hit they got outside the Oman D. Later, Oman’s Qasim al Shibli received a yellow card for a rough tackle as Oman missed a player for the last 10 minutes of the match. With four minutes left, Rashad al Fazari was quick enough to connect a long pass in front of the Malaysia goalpost but his shot was just wide. Another move by Rashad found Oman captain Younis al Noufali but his shot went over the bar. With the second consecutive win on the second day, Malaysia top the table with six points.

Oman lost both their matches and are without any points in the six-nation tournament. Oman Hockey Association (OHA) chairman Talib al Wahaibi was nevertheless satisfied with the fightback by Oman players during the match. “Our boys have came back strongly after the heavy defeat against India. Oman have scored their first goal in the Asian Champions Trophy.” “Oman are showing steady improvement after each match. Hopefully the boys will learn a lot from the higher-ranked opponents,” Al Wahaibi said. Oman are missing the services of their top six players including star player Basim Khatar — the player of the tournament in the Asian Games Qualifiers in Muscat — from the side as they were not relieved by their respective employers.  “However, we have good youngsters as back up and it is a lifetime opportunity for these young bunch of players,’’ the OHA chairman said.

Anuroop Athiparambath