x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Oman's triumph thrills a nation

Oman fans celebrated the victory over the Saudis until the early hours but Claude Le Roy's side were straight back to work getting ready for the Asian Cup qualifiers.

Oman's footballers hold aloft their trophies as they celebrate victory over Saudi Arabia in the Gulf Cup final in Muscat.
Oman's footballers hold aloft their trophies as they celebrate victory over Saudi Arabia in the Gulf Cup final in Muscat.

Having made history by beating Saudi Arabia for the first time in 15 meetings and winning their first Gulf Cup after a dramatic penalty shoot-out, Claude Le Roy's Oman side were straight back to work getting ready for the Asian Cup qualifier Group B opener with Indonesia.

The fans celebrated the victory over the Saudis until the early hours of the morning, and the government declared a holiday on Sunday to mark this piece of history, but for Le Roy's men the celebration ended on the same night as they were back at work to prepare for Monday evening's game at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex - the venue where the side notched their landmark victory. Le Roy said: "It will be hard to concentrate on this match as all the concentration was on the Gulf Cup. But the players will be buoyed by the win in the Gulf Cup and I hope they can continue their good recent performances."

"We were fully concentrated on playing well against Saudi Arabia and to win the title before turning out attentions to the game against Indonesia. "When I first arrived I said that the aim was to win the Gulf Cup and also play well in the Asian Cup. Our target was to win the Gulf Cup and qualify for the Asian Cup and I hope we can do that." Le Roy was naturally in high spirits following the final victory and had only praise for his players.

He said: "I didn't like the 'second-best team' tag and was determined to turn this Oman team into title-winners. The players gave 100 per cent at work and double that effort in the competition. "It was a very high level of performance. The quality of the game was good. We worked hard on our tactics and it paid off. It is a great moment for all the Omanis. The team did the nation proud. "Everything was difficult in the beginning. But we all worked hard and the team deserved to be the champions. We were the better team on the night and in all our games that took us to the final."

There were anxieties all round when the game headed for the penalty shoot-out. The players would have remembered their first final in 2004 when they were denied by Qatar and then their hopes were dashed by a late goal from the UAE's Ismail Matar in Abu Dhabi two years later. But there was no denying them victory this time as the hosts emerged with the trophy. Taiseer al Jassim sent the sixth penalty wide for the Saudis and up stepped the Oman captain Mohammed Rabea, who fired the next with steely determination to trigger the celebrations.

Oman deserved their moment in the sun. They were the best team in the competition. They were also the better team on the night, and were twice cruelly denied a goal when Ismail al Ajmi and Emad al Hosani saw their efforts crash against the woodwork. It was Ali al Habsi's fantastic save that took them to extra time after the Saudi captain Yasser al Qahtani had directed a perfect header towards the left corner which the Bolton Wanderers' goalkeeper pushed out of play.

For the Saudis, it was a case of hard luck. They had a fantastic run until they came up against Oman, but they were outplayed by a team hungrier for victory. For Oman, the win has opened a new chapter, and they will be looking for more glory now that Le Roy has been retained until 2014. apassela@thenational.ae