RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov 26 – Oman squandered its chances of finishing on the podium at the 22nd Gulf Cup, when the Red Warriors went down by a solitary goal to arch-rival UAE, in the third-place playoff at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd International Stadium, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last night.

Ali Mabkhout’s goal in the 60th minute separated the two teams, after the opening half had ended in a stalemate.

Oman coach, Paul Le Guen, was yet again left to rue a few missed chances, with Juma Darwish turning out to be the main culprit this time round. The attacking midfielder bungled on a clear opportunity to put Oman ahead in the 58th minute – just two minutes before Mabkhout found the target at the opposite end.

Striker Mohammed al Siyabi set up Darwish with a sharp defence-splitting through, in the goal area. The latter only had UAE goalkeeper, Khalid Eisa, to beat, but shot the ball wide.

Soon after, UAE punished Oman for the glaring mistake, scoring from a counter-attack. Mabkhout’s long-range effort from the top of the box was on target, as the ball squeezed past a diving Ali al Habsi, on the far right-hand corner.

Stung by the strike, Oman brought on Hussain al Hadhri and Abdulaziz al Miqbali, in place of Ahmed Mubarak ‘Kanu’ and Siyabi, and created a couple of chances to draw level, but the finishing wasn’t good enough. Hadhri’s header off a floater from Darwish was brilliantly saved by the UAE keeper in the 73rd minute. Ten minutes later, Miqbali hit the side of the net to waste another chance.

The contest failed to rise above mediocrity, with the Omani players failing to replicate the form, touch and skill they had exhibited in their 5-0 rout of ten-time champion Kuwait last week, that had catapulted the Red Warriors to the top of Group B.

UAE came third for the fifth time, having finished third on four occasions – in 1972, 1974, 1982 and 1998. Oman has never come third, but finished fourth three times in the past – in 1990, 1998 and 2003.

Hosts Saudi Arabia will take on Qatar in the final, at the King Fahd International Stadium today (Wednesday).

The match kicks off at 8.45pm, Oman time.


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