Cool Fayez keeps Oman slate clean

MUSCAT, Jan 2 – Oman players kept a cool head to reach the final in the hotly contested Arabian Gulf Cup semifinal at the Jaber International Stadium in Kuwait on Tuesday. An early pressure from Oman resulted in Bahrain conceding a first half own-goal. Mahdi Abd al Jaber’s header from the front post on the Omani corner kick lands in his own net in the 29th minute. Omani custodian Fayez al Rushaidi said they had learned from the last Gulf Cup semifinal loss against eventual champions Qatar.

“In that match, we played a good game but lost out to Qatar. We had learned a tough lesson in that match. Here in Kuwait, we had that lessons in mind and we took control of the match, though Bahrain had the ball possession,” the Omani goalkeeper told Oman TV in Kuwait. The valiant goalkeeper rose to the occasion on many times in the match, pulling off some crucial saves. Bahrain’s Habib took the ball with a first touch from a cross inside the Omani penalty box that was well thwarted by an advancing Fayez in the 89th minute.

In the 88th minute Oman escaped from a penalty after Saad Suhail had pushed over Bahrain striker Habib inside the box. And in the 74th minute an acrobatic Fayez brilliantly saved a threatening high cross into the Omani box. In the 61st minute, Habib’s low, stooping header was turned around for the corner by Al Rushaidi as it was sneaking into the bottom corner. A minute earlier, the Omani goalkeeper punched a shot from corner above the bar. Bahrain striker Mahdi Abd al Jaber had a great chance to make amends for his own goal in the 57th minute when he got through to Oman penalty box but misses the final touch as Omani defenders won the ball back.

Oman’s only Gulf Cup triumph came at home in 2009. Oman qualified to the semifinals as Group A toppers with two wins and one loss, to UAE.
In group stage, Oman beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 and also Kuwait 1-0. The only time their defence was breached was against the UAE. Miroslav Soukup’s Bahrain made their way to the semifinal with a 1-1 draw in the last game that sent the 2022 World Cup hosts and defending champions Qatar crashing out. Bahrain had finished four times runners-up in the Gulf Cup in 1970, 1982, 1992 and 2003. After the goal early in the first-half, Oman managed to hold off Bahrain rest of the time before the break. The match took a reverse turn as Oman bolstered their defence and looked to take advantage from counter-attacks — the same Bahrain was doing till the goal.

Anuroop Athiparambath