Struggling Dhofar pin hopes on AFC Cup

Omantel League defending champions Dhofar will seek to save their football season through the AFC Cup, as they host Al Ansar (Lebanon) in the first round of the group stage on Tuesday. In another match of Group C, Al Faisaly (Jordan) will host Al Wahda (Syria) at Amman International Stadium at 19:00. At Salalah Stadium, the 10-time OL champions Dhofar will rely on their Spanish striker Hugo Lopez who netted a brace at the weekend to help Dhofar overcome Mirbat 3-2. It was the first game for the Spaniard after a four-month of absence due to a knee injury. This season, the Salalah giants crashed out of the HM Cup and look far away from defending their Omantel League title as they are currently seventh in Omantel League, 21 points behind leaders Al Suwaiq.

Al Ansar, as well, are not in their good form this season as they are sixth in the Lebanon League with 25 points out of 48 possible. The two teams played with each other twice before, exactly in 2007 in the same stage of the competition. One match was a draw and Al Ansar won 3-0 in the second one. It was the second participation for Dhofar but now the team look more mature as it will be their fourth appearance after 2004, 2007 and 2013. New Dhofar manager Syrian Hussam al Din said that the team will go all the way to grab the full points. “Tomorrow, we will represent the Omani clubs and we are targeting only three points so that we start the campaign in a very good way,’’ said Hussam al Din.

“Since I joined Dhofar one month and half ago, I worked hard for the second phase of the season and for this competition too, unfortunately we didn’t play many friendly games at the break. But we are still confident to win tomorrow.” Regarding the opponents, the Syrian manager commented: “I saw some games of Al Ansar, especially the latest one against Al Najma in Lebanon League. They are a strong team, but as they have strengths, they have weakness too.’’ Al Ansar manager, Czeck Frantisek Straka said, “we came to Oman to get a good result against Dhofar even if we know that we are facing a very good team.’’ “I am also new in Al Ansar club, but I started to know all players and we will all work together to present a good game of football,” Al Ansar’s Straka added.

Jaber Al Ajmi