Oman players stepped up their game against Sri Lanka in the crucial Group B encounter to qualify for the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games men’s hockey by entering the semifinals in the Qualifiers in Muscat on Sunday.
Oman Hockey Association (OHA) Chairman Talib al Wahaiby was deighted with the goal achieved for Oman. “We are very happy to qualify for the Asian Games. Credit to the players, and the entire team.”
“Now, our focus will be to win the Qualifiers tournament,” Talib told Oman Daily Observer.
Oman national coach Tahir Zaman, who saw a scrappy 4-3 performance against Chinese Taipei, remarked that the players have found their rhythm in the tournament after a dominant 5-1 win against Sri Lanka in the second match. With the win, Oman earned six points from two matches and now have only one match left in Group B against lowly Kazakhstan.
“We have beat the strong two teams in the group. We have ensured the semifinals with these wins and the team will look for a comprehensive win against Kazakhstan,” Pakistan great Zaman said.
“In the first match, our players were little tensed about playing at home. Now, into the second match, they have settled and started to play without any pressure and that shows in the result.”
“Sri Lanka (38th) are much higher ranked opponents compared to Chinese Taipei (52nd) but we were dominant against the Lankans as the Omani players have put out a strong display.”
Oman players took an aggressive style of play against Sri Lanka, often playing fast attacking moves and at the same time effectively dispossessing Lankans in the midfield itself.
“We are capable of more and we will see such performance in the later stages of the tournament, a confident Oman coach said.
On paper, Group A team Bangladesh (30th) are the only team ranked above Oman with a ranking of 32nd.
Sri Lanka, who came after an opening 6-0 drubbing of Kazakhstan, were completely outplayed by the hosts at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.
Most of the Omani players, who were fielded in the match, put out a solid performance as Lankan players struggled to get the possession.
Salah al Saadi, who opened the scoring for Oman in the second minute, also rounded up the scoresheet with his second and the team’s fifth goal in the 56th minute.
Both the field goals from the vibrant forward earned him the ‘player of the match’ honour.
Basim Khatar Rajab’s brilliant dribbling goal was also one of the top moments in the game for Oman.
Four of the goals against Sri Lanka were field goals, while Khalid al Shaibi netted from the second penalty corner that came Oman’s way.
The penalty corner was well executed by Oman players with a smart stop and pass to Khalid which left the Lankan defence clueless.
To a query whether most of the reserve players will get a chance in the final group match against Kazakhstan, the Oman coach said,
“We have been rotating our full squad of 22 in the matches. Most of the players have been given a chance and they will get further opportunity in the last match.”