Oman edged Saudi Arabia 2-1 to seal their berth in the semifinals of the 25th edition of Arabian Gulf Cup in Iraq’s Basra city on Thursday night. Oman’s Al Mundher al Alawi gave the lead for Red Warriors in the 35th minute while Turki al Ammar equalised for Saudi Arabia after six minutes only.
The first half ended with a 1-1 draw. In the following half, Harib al Saadi managed to score the winner in the 84th minute to deliver a crucial victory that confirmed Oman’s presence in the semifinals.
With their second win in the Group A, Oman raised their credit to seven points from three games and finished in second place in the group table behind toppers Iraq on goal difference.
Oman opened the campaign with a goalless draw against Iraq and then defeated Yemen 3-2 in the following game before stunning Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the last match in the group stage.
Saudi Arabia began their campaign with a 2-0 win over Yemen in the opener and then suffered a 2-0 loss against hosts Iraq. They ended their campaign with three points only.
At the Al Mina’a Stadium, Oman coach Branko Ivankovic started with Essam al Subhi, Al Mundher al Alawi and Salah al Yahyaei in the forward line-up.
Ibrahim al Mukhaini was the goalie while Juma al Habsi monitored the back line and he was accompanied by Ahmed al Khamisi, Ahmed al Matroushi and Ahmed al Kaabi. Harib al Saadi was in the midfield beside Arshad al Alawi, Jameel al Yahmadi and Salah al Yahyaei.
The first half started strongly as both teams were looking to book a spot in the semis.
Oman team entered the match with two scenarios for qualifying to semifinals – either a draw or a win. Saudi needed a win to make last four spot.
Al Mundher al Alawi found the target first in the game. Al Alawi scored the goal in the 35th minute after making a good connection to a cross.
The response was quick from the opponent side as they registered the equaliser four minutes before the end of first half through Turki al Ammar with a strong shot.
In the second half, Oman began in an attacking mode as Essam al Subhi missed a scoring opportunity when he faced Saudi’s goalie face to face but his ball went outside the box in the 48th minute.
Later, Saudi’s players pressed hard to create more attacking attempts. Within ten minutes, Saudi’s strongest attacker Turki al Ammar was very close to registering his second goal but his shot went right hand side of Ibrahim al Mukhaini in the 51st minute.
Coach Saad al Shahri’s men continued pressure for the second goal but all their scoring attempts were blocked by strong Omani defence and by the agile goalkeeper.
Oman’s experienced player Harib al Saadi managed to score the winner for the Red Warriors through a strong ball sent by him from outside the box in the 84th minute.
This goal boosted confidence for Oman players as they blocked all the spaces for the opponent and managed to end the tight clash 2-1. The triumph confirmed Oman’s progression to the semifinals alongside group toppers Iraq.