Muscat: Two-time champions Oman successfully thwarted a gritty challenge from Yemen in a thrilling 3-2 win in a Group A match of the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup at the Basra International Stadium on Monday evening.
A late drama erupted with Oman leading the match 3-2 and Yemen earning a penalty in the injury time of the match. Oman goalkeeper Ibrahim al Mukhaini turned out to be the hero of the match as he saved the spot kick to give his side a hard-fought win.
Earlier, playing in pouring rain, both the teams exhibited a pacy and positive performance as the match swung like a pendulum with four goals scored before the interval. The goal-fest began in the third minute of the match as Yemen goalie Ali Fadi failed to collect a corner from Oman’s Ali al Kaabi resulting in a dream start for Branko Ivankovic’s Red Warriors.
However, Yemen did not take long to get the equaliser as Abdulwasam Abdullah was fouled inside the penalty box by an Omani defender for a spot kick to be awarded. Abdullah converted the penalty kick in the 12th minute to open up the game.
Oman and Yemen players, despite the wet pitch due to rains, didn’t stop from demonstrating their attacking intent and it was against the run of play that Yemen took the lead in the 30th minute.
The goal was a result of a long ranger from Omar al Dahi that beat a diving Omani custodian Ibrahim al Mukhaini to send the Yemen bench into raptures.
Oman, ranked much higher than their rivals, fought back and equalised soon with Arshad al Alawi’s free-kick from the top of the box. Yemen goalkeeper Ali Fadi failed to collect the ball cleanly and the fumble led to the ball rolling past the goal-line.
Red Warriors had a golden opportunity to seize the lead before the interval as a darting run from Jameel Yahmadi saw him fouled by Mudir Abdurdu inside the box. The spot kick was taken by Arshad al Alawi but he slipped to send the ball soaring into the stands.
Oman were quick to restore the lead soon after the break as Issam al Subhi’s diving header in the 47th minute gave them the crucial lead. Ivankovic’s men claimed their first win in the ongoing edition to boost their chances to advance to the knockout round.
Oman now have four points, with one point from their opening match against hosts Iraq that ended in a goalless stalemate. Yemen’s second successive loss makes their march into the next round difficult though they would have to wait for the result of the late evening match against Saudi Arabia and Iraq to know their fate.
Saudi Arabia have three points ahead of the match against Iraq while the hosts have one point so far.
In Group B, defending champions Bahrain and Qatar have recorded victories in their opening matches.