Ahli-Sidab retains title
It was a repeat of last year's final. And the result, too, was the same as Ahli-Sidab defeated Al Nasr 5-3 to retain the Oman Hockey League (OHL) title at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex (SQSC) on Monday night.
Coached by Indian K K Poonacha, Ahli-Sidab has now won three titles on a trot, beginning from its OHL crown last April. It followed it up by winning its 11th His Majesty's Cup title in December and completed a hat-trick of titles on Monday night.
With three Indian players including former Indian international, Affan Yousuf, in its ranks, Ahli-Sidab rallied from 2-3 to win the match 5-3 in a thriller.
Yousuf, who has been part of all the three title triumphs, scored a brace while Oman international Rashad al Fazari slammed another two goals. Asad al Qasmi was the other scorer for the winner.
Besides Yousuf, the other two Indians in Ahli-Sidab team during the OHL campaign were Shivdeep Singh and Shakir Hussain.
Ahli-Sidab remained unbeaten in all the seven matches it played en route to the title.
A total of six teams took part in the OHL with four advancing to semis. Ahli-Sidab defeated former champions Seeb 3-2 in the first semifinal while Al Nasr, riding on the brilliance of another Indian duo, Walmiki brothers, Devindar and Yuvraj, beat Bausher 2-1 in the other semifinal.
Fourth OHL titlefor Poonacha
Former Oman coach Poonacha has been the architect of Ahli-Sidab's success since 2011 and the latest title was his fourth OHL title with the club.
Also to his credit, the former Indian international has led the club to four HM's Cup titles.
He had led Ahli-Sidab to back-to-back OHL titles in 2014 and 2015 and now, once again, he has won successive league titles (2018 and 2019).
In his exclusive remarks to Muscat Daily before flying back to India on Tuesday, Poonacha said, “We were deserving winners as my boys fought hard throughout the tournament. We remained unbeaten in all the seven matches we played.
“In the semifinal and the final, we were trailing to our respective opponents. But my boys raised the game when it mattered the most to fight back and win those games. I am very happy.”
The Indian coach, who completed a hat-trick of titles since April last, said, “We would like to continue the winning momentum. We are confident of defending our HM's Cup title later this year.
“I will return in September to start our preparations as HM's Cup, which is expected to start in October.”
“I am glad to announce that the club had recently renewed my contract for another two years,” said Poonacha, who won HM's Cup with the club in 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2018.
Poonacha, who arrived a month back to train the team for this tournament, said, 'the current arrangement with the club suits him'.
Bausher took the third spot after scoring a narrow 2-1 win over Seeb.
Later the chief guest, Khalil al Hedaifi, chief retail banking officer of Sohar International, gave away the OHL winner's shield to Ahli-Sidab captain Abdullah al Alawi and medals to the top three teams.
Also present on the occasion was Talib al Wahaibi, OHA chairman, Marwan al Juma, Ahli-Sidab Club chief, and other board members.
Ahli-Sidab's Salah al Saadi was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the league while Al Nasr's Fahad al Noufali was adjudged the best goalkeeper.