Oman topple Iran to top group

PATTAYA: Oman head coach Talib Hilal has already moved on from his side’s stunning win over Iran, declaring their AFC Beach Soccer Championship Thailand 2019 quarterfinal against Bahrain will be an even more difficult task. The 4-3 win over the reigning champions saw Oman top Group D, and announce their credentials as potential Asian champions, but it will count for nothing if they fail to repeat the dose against Bahrain in the last eight. The tie had been locked at 2-2 deep into the final period, but late goals to Sami al Bulushi and Yahya al Arami scored crucial late goals to give Oman what proved an insurmountable lead.
Despite continuing end-to-end drama, it looked as though the sides would be level at the end of the opening period, but Jalal al Sinani guided home Salim’s cross to give Talib Hilal’s side a 2-1 lead at the end of the 12 minutes.
Finally, the goal came, as Masoumizadeh atoned for his squandered penalty with an overhead volley that bounced wickedly off the sand and into the net to make it 2-2, and a superb Hosseini save from Al Balushi’s bullet ensured it remained that way moments later.
But Oman refused to be denied, and they took the lead for a second time when Al Balushi reached a high ball before Hosseini to head it into the back of the net with six minutes remaining.
Masoumizadeh hit the crossbar with a bouncing free-kick, but Oman found a crucial fourth through a late-arriving Yahya al Arami with just two minutes remaining to extend the lead.
Ahmadzadeh scored with 30 seconds remaining to give Marco Octavio’s men late hope, but Oman held on for a famous win to top the section and send a warning to the rest of the competition.
‘TOUGH CONTEST’
While understandably pleased with his side’s success against Iran, the highly experienced Hilal said the instant elimination that will follow any slip up against Bahrain makes the coming match an even tougher challenge.
“The past is past, and now that becomes history. We are focused on tomorrow’s match. I respect any team in this tournament no matter who is who,” he declared.
“I know the match will be more difficult than yesterday, because in the group stage you have two or three matches, so if you lose one you can recover in the next match, but in the knockout stage if you lose, you are out.
“God willing, we will do our best. I know the match will be very difficult because of the pressure of the match. We must win to qualify for the semifinals and we will be well prepared.”
“Each game has its own tactics. Iran had their own system, and Bahrain have their own system, so I focus on how Bahrain play and how we play against Bahrain, but the spirit of the team will be the same. This is important,” he concluded.
Hilal is a respected figure in the beach soccer world for his achievements both at club level and in the international game, where he guided Oman to World Cups in 2011 and 2015.
He is potentially two wins away from sealing a return to the global stage; a task he knows will be far from straightforward.
“I wish all the best for all the remaining teams,” he said.
“Whoever wins (the competition), I will congratulate them. Whoever qualifies for the World Cup, I will congratulate them for representing Asia and showing that Asia can do something in beach soccer.
“I hope tomorrow’s game is very difficult. We are two teams from the Gulf, so we know each other very well, and Bahrain want to go the World Cup, so they will fight and it will be tough. It’s not easy. For me, its a difficult match.”
Meanwhile, Bahrain head coach Mahmood al Ghawi revealed Oman had been his preferred knockout stage opponents; a scenario he believed had disappeared after his side’s 6-2 Match day Three loss to Japan.
“The truth is, we wanted to win against Japan so we could avoid Iran,” said the 37-year-old.
“We wanted the Oman team, and Oman surprised everyone yesterday, so now we will play against Oman.
“Oman was a big surprise. They were warriors as a team yesterday, and we know it will be a very tough game for us.”
One thing making Bahrain’s task even tougher is the suspension of two players, with Hesham Ahmed and red-carded Isa al Doseri both ruled out of the Thursday’s clash, although they will welcome back captain
Mohamed Ashoor.