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Oman set up Saudi final
Hassan Rabea puts hosts within 90 minutes of first Gulf Cup as Saudis down Kuwait.
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2009 20:23 GMT

Rabea rifles home the winner under challenge from Qatar's Mousa Haroun [AFP]

Hassan Rabea's exquisite half-volley fired Oman into the final of the 19th Gulf Cup as the hosts beat Qatar 1-0 to set up a meeting with Saudi Arabia.

Star goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi twice came to his side's rescue as Oman failed to kill off the tie against a ragged Qatar defence.

The big Bolton Wanderers keeper got down to a bullet header from substitute Marconi Costa midway through the second half before turning a stinging drive from Sebastien Soria round the post.

Tears of joy

Al Habsi, who has kept a clean sheet in every match this tournament, cried tears of joy as he paraded around the pitch afterwards, mounting advertising hoardings to salute the ecstatic home crowd.

Al Habsi lets it all out [AL JAZEERA]
Such is the adulation for Al Habsi in the Sultanate that every regulation catch made by the English Premier League stopper was greeted by cheers almost as loud as those that hailed Rabea's first-half goal.

"It's fantastic, just a fantastic feeling," Al Habsi told Al Jazeera after Wednesday's match.

"Hopefully now we can go without conceding any goals in the whole tournament. This is the most important thing.

"I had to concentrate the whole game to make those two saves.

"Now we are through and if we can win the final it will be a great feeling."

Redemption

The match against Saudi Arabia, who beat Kuwait 1-0 in the second semi at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, is Oman's chance for redemption after losing the previous two finals.

Qatar beat them on penalties in Doha in 2004 while United Arab Emirates – then coached by current Qatar boss Bruno Metsu – won 1-0 in Abu Dhabi in 2007.

Oman coach Claude Le Roy appeared at the post-match press conference on Wednesday fresh from being heaved repeatedly into the air by his jubilant players.

And while they are feeling the benefit of home support this time around, Le Roy believes they had extra reason to be fired up against Qatar.

"I want to thank Al Jazeera television because before the game they showed a lot of images of Oman losing the Gulf Cup," he said.

"It was the perfect motivation for my players."

Saudi threat

While Le Roy may have had his tongue firmly in his cheek in thanking the broadcasters, he will have to get it wagging again to prepare his team to face a hugely impressive Saudi side on January 17.

Ahmed Al-Fraidi scored a close range winner on 64 minutes to seal their semi-final moments after Kuwaiti Mesaed Nada had squandered a glorious chance with the goal at his mercy.

We love Oman too, Claude [AFP]
Saudi Arabia have scored 10 goals while also not conceding any, and Le Roy – whose players have hit the net seven times on their march to the final – will have to hope his "attack, attack, attack" mantra is enough to conquer the World Cup regulars and bring Oman their first Gulf Cup.

But he insists that the spectre of a third-successive final loss is not haunting his side.

"It's not pressure, it's a dream," he said.

"If we win this Gulf Cup I think the football in Oman will win for 10 years.

"It's a fantastic country of football, this country, and we have a huge job to do but it's much easier to do that if we are winners – to get young Omani players in, not players from Africa but from Oman.

"So far we are not winners, we are finalists.

"It's not bad but it's not enough. We want more."

Pining for Koni

They could certainly have had more goals against Qatar – "seven" was Le Roy's estimate – had it not been for a combination of their own poor finishing and desperate defending by a Qatar side shorn of defensive rock Abdullah Koni.

First Rabea headed on a long throw from Hassan Al-Ghailani that Qatar stopper Mohammed Saqr just managed to tip over the bar.

Rabea scored on 19 minutes when he slammed home right back Ismail Al-Ajmi's long ball after it had eluded two Qatari defenders.

But Emad Al-Hosni missed a great opportunity to make it 2-0 shortly after as he chipped into the side netting with just Saqr to beat, while Mohammed Al-Noobi got in a last-gasp challenge at the other end to stop Khalfan Ibrahim squaring for Soria.

Al-Hosni missed another chance in the second half after Bilal Mohammed slipped to let him through for a one-on-one with Saqr, but the rangy keeper saved at his feet.

Oman sat back as the final whistle neared, leaving it to Al Habsi to make their profligacy an irrelevance and keep the dream alive.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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