Muscat: Holders and favourites Seeb Club were held to a goalless draw by former champions Al Suwaiq in the first-leg of the semi-finals of 2022-23 His Majesty’s Cup Football Championship at Seeb Sports Stadium on Monday night.
The reigning champions will have a tough task when they travel to Al Rustaq Sports Complex for the second-leg against hosts Al Suwaiq on February 26 after being forced to share the spoils on Monday in front of a large home crowd.
Seeb had an extraordinary season in 2021-22 as they clinched the HM’s Cup and domestic league titles before capping the dream run by becoming the first club from the Sultanate of Oman to lift the coveted AFC Cup trophy last October.
In a later semi-final on Monday, last edition runner-up Al Rustaq are due to meet Al Nahda at Al Rustaq Sports Complex.
All the semi-finalists are the front-runners in the domestic league as they occupy the top-four spots with Al Nahda leading the table with 38 points after 16 rounds. Suwaiq are second with 32 while Rustaq are at third place with 31 with Seeb at fourth position with 26 points after 16 games each.
The winners of the double-leg semi-finals will clash for the coveted trophy at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Bausher on March 9.
Coached by experienced Rasheed Jaber, who led Seeb to AFC Cup title, the team failed to break the gritty Suwaiq defence despite making repeated forays into the rival box area and holding domination in the first half.
The team, comprising many national team players, will be disappointed not gaining the advantage but due credit to Suwaiq for their strong defending, which would be happier after the match with the result.
Seeb’s foreign recruit Jebola was sent off in the injury time of the match when he was booked for a strong tackle on Suwaiq’s Harib al Saadi. Jebola will miss the return-leg following the red card.
Ibrahim Soomar-led Al Suwaiq, which last won the title in 2016-17 season, and came runner-up in 2020-21, will fancy their chances in the return leg next Sunday. A three-time champion, Suwaiq won their first title in 2008 and then in the 2012-13 season.
Four-time winners Seeb won their maiden title in 1996 and achieved a hat-trick by winning the next two editions. The drought since 1998 ended last year when Jaber guided the Muscat-based popular club to their fourth title in the tournament’s 51-year-old history. The prestigious tournament began in 1972 with Al Ahli crowned the winners of the first edition.
Ahead of the semi-final match, Seeb Club announced free entry for their fans. The large crowd left disappointed as Seeb failed to make the most of their home fans.
Salalah giants Dhofar hold the record of most titles with ten trophies while Fanja are next best with nine.
Al Ahli and Al Nasr share five titles each while Al Arouba, Sur and Seeb have won four times each.