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Ecstatic Oman lift Gulf Cup
Hosts make it third time lucky with penalty shootout victory over Saudi Arabia.
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2009 07:31 GMT

Oman finally get their hands on the trophy [AFP]

Oman won the Gulf Cup for the first time in their history as they beat Saudi Arabia 6-5 on penalties in front of an ecstatic home crowd in Muscat.

The hosts completely dominated the final against the region's football powerhouse but chance after chance went begging as Saudi keeper Walid Ali kept his team in the match.

With the score nil-nil after extra time, Tayseer Al-Jassim missed his sudden-death spotkick to allow Oman defender Mohammed Al-Noobi to step up and fire his side to victory – and erase the pain of defeat in the last two finals.

Bounding around

Oman keeper Ali Al Habsi, who along with opposite number Ali kept a clean sheet in every match of this 19th Gulf Cup, bounded around the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex with the trophy as his teammates kept the celebrations going long after the end of Saturday's game.

"It's fantastic, it's fantastic," the Bolton Wanderers player said after jumping down from a pitchside TV studio the Oman players had swamped.

"Thank you everyone for all the support, all the supporters here.

"This is a great moment for everyone in Oman and we give this victory to them.

"We hope everyone enjoys it and now we are going to enjoy ourselves."

As the players lapped up the worship of the 39,000 fans who had filled the stadium hours before kickoff, French coach Claude Le Roy insisted he had played just a minor role in bringing the Sultanate its first major trophy.

Joy like this

"To create joy like this is really something special," he said.

"I think we deserved to win this final against a very strong Saudi Arabia team.

Trophy cabinet no longer looking so bare [AFP]
"It is one more trophy for me but, you know, the victory is for the players and if we had lost I would have assumed the defeat.

"I am very moved. I don't think me or the players realised before really what this Gulf Cup was.

"Now we realise."

The former Africa Cup of Nations winner's modesty will mean little to the fans who chanted his name, hailing the man who made it third time lucky for an Omani team desperate to put final defeats in Doha in 2004 and Abu Dhabi in 2007 behind them.

Out of the blocks

The first half saw Oman tear out of the blocks as Saudi soaked up the pressure, with the visitors hoping to deliver a knockout blow using the pace of Yasser Al-Qahtani on the break.

Six minutes in, home midfielder Fawzi Bashir Dorbin used his tarantula-like legs to keep the ball away from a clutch of three defenders before slipping playing in Ismail Al-Ajmi, whose pinpoint cross from the right was volleyed just wide by striker Emad Al-Hosni.

Saudi coach Nasser Johar had vowed before the match to get a feel for his opponents before going for the win in the second half, and the visitors began to quickly shut down the Omani attacks as the match lulled towards half time.

But Oman almost went ahead seconds before the whistle, as Al-Ajmi collected the ball on the edge of the box and spanked a shot towards the top corner.

Keeper Ali got the slightest of touches as it dipped over him and the ball cannoned back off the bar to safety.

Forlorn hope

If Johar had hoped that was the cue for his team – who have appeared in the last four World Cups – to punish their less-fancied opponents, then his hopes were looking forlorn as the second half got underway.

On 51 minutes, Dorbin floated in a cross that seemed destined for the head of tournament top-scorer Hassan Rabea before it was plucked out of the air in the nick of time by Ali.

Five minutes later Rabea forced another save out of Ali with a volley on the turn, before Oman troubled the Saudi defence with a string of free kicks from substitute Ahmed Hadid.

But it was a wonderful looping cross from full back Hassan Al-Ghailani that almost broke the deadlock, as Al-Hosni connected with a header that seemed destined for the net before Ali somehow got a touch to tip it onto the bar to the disbelief of the Omani crowd.

Extra time brought a slowing of the tempo but Oman almost paid in the last seconds as Al Habsi was brought into the game for the first time.

Saudi Arabia's Nayef Hazaazi broke down the left and his cross hung in the air as Khalifa Al-Nofli desperately tried to get in position to head it away.

But Al-Qahtani steamed in behind him to connect with a downward header that seemed certain to break Omani hearts before Al Habsi scrambled low to his left to push it clear.

Then came penalties, a nightmare for Al-Jassim, and redemption for Oman.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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