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UAE, Oman make semis
December 29, 2017
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KUWAIT CITY: A scoreless stalemate against hosts Kuwait, who had already made their exit from the ongoing Gulf Cup of Nations, was enough for the UAE to book their place in the tournament’s semi-finals along with Oman. A determined Omani team caused an upset when they beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 in the other Group A game to bundle the pre-tournament favourites out of the competition.

Alberto Zaccheroni’s men secured the point needed to ensure their progress in the tournament, albeit after weathering a late storm from the hosts who were playing for pride. The UAE though were guilty of wasting a host of goal-scoring opportunities in the early stages of the match played at the Jaber Al Ahmed International Stadium in Kuwait City on Thursday.

Though Kuwait failed to qualify themselves, they almosts put paid to UAE’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.

Centre-back Mohanad Salem Al Enazi proved to be the UAE saviour in the dying moments of the game to keep the score pegged at 0-0 and put his team’s qualification beyond doubt. The Al Ain defensive bulwark threw himself in the direction of substitute Abdullah Al Buraiki, to smother the Kuwaiti player’s close range effort that ricocheted off his legs and sailed over the bar four minutes from time.

The match earlier saw the Whites dominate proceedings in the first half of play. The hosts had only a solitary long-range effort. At the other end, the UAE’s Ali Salmeen floated a long ball over the Kuwait defence for Ali Mabkhout. However, the Al Jazira forward weak shot went straight to goalkeeper Hameed Youssef.

Youssef again made another save to deny Omar Abdulrahman’s dipping effort from outside the area. The Oman goalkeeper once more did well to block a later bullet strike from Khamis Ismail.

The UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa, meanwhile, was called into action on either sides of the lemon break, first parrying a speculative effort away, before denying Sultan Al Enezi’s goal-bound header with a dive to his left-hand side.

Oman stun S.Arabia

Saudi Arabia missed out on a semi-final spot after a shock 2-0 defeat to Oman in Kuwait on Thursday.

The Saudi team began in right earnest, but Oman came back into the match with promising bursts on the counter. Their first look at goal came in when a pass from the left flank was muffed by Abdul Aziz Al Muqbali who failed to connect.

Saudi Arabia thereafter controlled the match and for long periods, pinned the Omanis deep into their own half. However, their dominance and superior possession did not translate into a breakthrough for them in the first half.

The Saudis were left to rue their lack of creativity as Oman came out after the half-time break, much the better side and in the 58th minute went ahead. Said Salim, who came in as a second-half substitute for Al Muqbali, did not miss with a rebound after Assaf Al Qarni had saved the initial goal-bound shot.

This shock goal galvanised the Saudi players, as with less than half-an-hour to go, they began to pile on the pressure on the Omani defence who crowded their goal area. As the Saudis desperately looked for the equaliser, Oman remained resolute in defence while their attackers looked dangerous on the break.

Saudi Arabia continued pressing forward, but desperation increasingly started to well up within their ranks. An off-side flag by the referee’s assistant robbed them of what they thought was the equalizer in the 75th minute.

Things got worse for Saudi Arabia when Oman seemed to have put the issue beyond doubt when they added a second goal when Al Mushaifri’s cross was met and buried by Khalid Khalifa Al Hajri.

Despite sustained pressure from the Saudis, their forwards couldn’t manage a breakthrough. Another disallowed goal and two late penalty shouts later, Oman joined the UAE in the semi-finals. The Whites who were held to a goalless draw by hosts Kuwait in Thursday’s other match, await the other two semi-finalists from Group B: Iraq, Bahrain and Qatar, who will fight it out on Friday for the remaining semis spots.

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