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Oman stun Saudi, qualify for semis

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UAE advance to last 4, Kuwait end winless

Kuwait’s Ahmad al-Dhefiri (top), jumps to kick the ball as Emirati player Ahmed Khalil watches on during the Gulf Cup football match between Kuwait and the UAE at the Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Stadium in Kuwait City on Dec 28. (AFP)

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 28: The UAE and Oman have qualified for the semifinals of the 23rd Arabian Gulf Cup. UAE played a goalless draw with Kuwait at Jaber International Stadium, while Oman rode on Saudi Arabia to earn the ticket to the next stage of the competition with 2-0 win.

Oman finished Group A as winners while UAE ended as runners up, Saudi Arabia ended their participation in the tournament with four points, while Kuwait earned only one point at the bottom of Group A. Kuwait showed a lot of character and determination to get a positive result by playing with serious business mindset from the onset. Coach Boris Bunjak made a series of changes in their last match, as he played goalkeeper Hamed Hakim and assigned Dhari Sae’ed in right full back pairing Hussein Hakim and Fahad Al-Hajeri at central defense. Khalid Al-Qahtani returned to the left full back after his absence in the previous match.

Bader Al-Mutawa, Fahad Al-Anzi teamed up with Faisal Zayed, while Sultan Al-Anzi made the formation alongside Ahmad Al-Thufairi and Faisal Ajab who played as the main striker. Meanwhile, Ali Mabkhout and Ismail Al-Hamadi joint forces with Omar Abdul-Rahman from the middle and Mohammad Al-Menhali from the left side led the assaults against Kuwait, as the Blues took the game to their opponents very early with a strike from Bader Al-Mutawa from the right side and Fahad Al-Anzi from the left, while Faisal Zayed created the pace from the middle. The pressure caused some defensive errors in favor of the Blues. However, the UAE team made a remarkably dangerous move through a solo effort by Mabkhout who harassed Al-Qallaf but the shot was too weak to make an impact.

In the other game, Saudi Arabia and Oman were both cautious during the first half to the point that performance was rated equal. The trend changed in the second half of the game when Oman gained upper hand through effective use of the midfield led by Mohammad Mubarak who got necessary support from the right flank through Sa’ad Suhail and Mahmoud Mabrouk. Omani team opened the goal flood in the 58th minute when a free kick by Sa’eed Al-Rezaqi unwittingly deflected into the net through Saudi player Khaled Abdulbaqi who scored an own goal. Unsatisfied, Al-Rezaqi scored the second goal with a brilliant header in the 78th minute.

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