By Sports Reporter
Somalia displayed a lot of pluck but were left ruing their luck as Oman advanced to the main draw of the FIFA Arab Cup with a 2-1 win Sunday evening.
The Omanis scored twice in the first half of the lively game at the Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium before Somalia pulled one pack nine minutes after the break.
Oman, who last week qualified for the 12-team final phase of Asian qualifying for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, will now join join Qatar and Iraq in Group A of the FIFA Arab Cup to be played later this year.
A fourth team will be added to the group later from the qualifiers now underway in Doha.
Oman, the reigning Gulf Cup champions, were expected to coast to a comfortable victory over Somalia, ranked 197th in the FIFA World rankings, but things didn’t go entirely their way.
Ranked more than 100 places above Somalia at 80, they should have coasted to a fluent win but struggled to put up a cohesive display as the hard-running Somalis kept frustrating the time and again.
The crossbar came in Oman’s way as early as in the sixth minute denying forward Muhsen al-Ghassani from close.
But five minutes later, al-Ghassani made amends with a deft left-footed flick over Somali goalkeeper Mustafa Mohamed after he had failed to properly collect a shot from Abdulaziz al-Maqabli. A few failed attempts at goal after that, Oman were awarded a penalty when Mustafa brought down al-Ghassani in the box in the 33rd minute. Salah al-Yahyaei, who stepped up to take the shot, easily sent Mustafa the wrong way with a powerful low drive.
Oman went into the break with a comfortable 2-0 cushion but were in for a shock after the break which saw the Somalis break through with a fine effort from Abel Gigli.
Following a free-kick, the Omani defence was under pressure and when Gigli rose above the defence to send in his header from a pass from the left flank, goalkeeper Faiyz al-Rushedi was found wanting.
A few minutes later, substitute Issa Ahmed had a great chance to draw level for Somalia but al-Rushedi was equal to the task on this occasion. Oman could have added one more but al-Ghassani again saw his effort hit the post, and al-Rushedi brought off another good save off Anwar Shakunda in the last minute of play to ensure their progress to the group stage.
Meanwhile, FIFA confirmed yesterday that following the standard PCR tests applied ahead of the FIFA Arab Cup qualification matches, some members of the delegation of the South Sudan national team have tested positive for Covid-19.
In line with the medical procedures in place, they have been placed in isolation and the activities planned for today have been postponed.
Protecting the health and safety of all individuals involved in the FIFA Arab Cup remains a top priority for the organisers, QNA reported.
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