AFC Beach Soccer Championship: Oman stuns holder Iran
Talib Hilal's men stunned defending champion Iran 4-3 in a high-voltage Group D match at the AFC Beach Soccer Championship Thailand 2019 clash in Pattaya on Tuesday.
The crucial victory, second in a row for Oman, confirmed it as Group D topper and set up a all-Gulf quarterfinal match against Bahrain. Oman had earlier defeated Iraq 6-3 in the opening match to book a spot in the quarterfinals in the three-team group.
Both the teams were tied at 2-2 late into the final period, but goals from Sami al Balushi and Yahya al Araimi gave Oman the advantage, which it held till the end.
Speaking to Muscat Daily from Pattaya after the win, a delighted Talib Hilal, Oman’s head coach, said, “This is a victory for all of Oman. Win was our target and I'm delighted with my boys’ display against one of the best teams in the world. It was a tactical game, different from the first match [against Iraq], and we were well prepared. We did our best.”
The game between the reigning champion and Oman, the 2015 title winner, was played at frenetic pace and Mohammad Masoumizadeh scored Iran's opener in the fourth minute.
Iran goalkeeper Hamid Behzadpour saved to deny Oman’s Abdullah Salim's overhead kick in the sixth minute, before Mishal al Araimi got the equaliser with a stunning volley from deep in his own half.
Experienced Omani player Jalal al Sinani guided home Salim's cross to give his side the lead at the end of the 12 minutes.
Oman’s goalkeeper Haitham Showan then made some good saves to prevent Iran from drawing level early in the second period.
Iran persisted in surging forward, and a penalty kick for Masoumizadeh gave it its best chance for some time, but Showan made yet another brilliant save to help keep Oman's lead intact throughout what proved to be a scoreless second period.
Masoumizadeh atoned for his squandered penalty with an overhead volley that bounced awkwardly off the sand and into the net to make it 2-2. Iran’s Hosseini saved a bullet shot from Balushi few moments later.
The never-say-die-spirit of Oman stood out and it took the lead for a second time when Balushi reached a high ball before Hosseini to head it into the back of the net with six minutes remaining.
Oman found a crucial fourth goal through a late-arriving Yahya al Araimi with just two minutes remaining.
Iran found a consolation goal when Ahmadzadeh scored with 30 seconds remaining, but Oman held on for a famous win to send a clear signal of its intention to regain the title it won in Doha, Qatar. In the 2015 final, Oman had defeated Japan.
In his remarks, Talib said, “The players did what I asked them to do, and the win is important for us. It gives our boys lot of confidence for the matches ahead. I respect any team, so the next match [vs Bahrain] won't be easy for us. I will never underestimate any team in this competition.
“We will now prepare for the next match and we are focused to go further till the end."
Marco Octavio, Iran's head coach, told the-afc.com website, “It was like a final. It was two teams with very good technical conditions and I would like to give big congratulations to Oman.
“Oman deserved to win. The people who came tonight saw a very beautiful show of beach soccer. If we were watching this from the perspective of a scout, and judging things like possession and ball control, we would say Iran was the superior team, but Oman was more efficient."