HM's Cup Football: Dhofar inches closer to final
Eight-time winner Dhofar took a big step towards a record ninth title in the His Majesty's Cup Football Championship on Thursday night when it outplayed defending champion Saham 2-0 in the first leg of the semifinals at the Sohar Sports Complex.
With the advantage of having scored two away goals, Dhofar, coached by Spanish manager Andrea Garcia, looks to be in pole position when it hosts the return leg on April 11.
In the other semifinal played at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, former champion Oman Club edged past Al Suwaiq 1-0 in its home game with the winner coming in the 83rd minute off a penalty kick.
Khalid al Hamdani, who has been picked into the 26-member national team probables to face Bhutan in the Asian Cup qualifiers in Muscat on March 28, converted the spot kick.
Suwaiq goalkeeper Anwar al Alawi failed to make a clean stop of the shot from Hamdani and the Oman Club striker was quick to pounce on the rebound to slam past him.
Suwaiq will hope to make a comeback when it hosts the return leg at the Sohar Sports Complex on April 11.
At Sohar, Saham had a solid first half, but failed to match Dhofar as it conceded two goals after the break.
Saham, which had lost 1-2 to Al Wehdat in its AFC Cup match in Amman, Jordan recently, showed signs of fatigue against Dhofar and steadily slumped as the second half progressed.
Dhofar's African recruit Lawson converted a penalty kick in the 58th minute and Oman international Raeed Ibrahim put the match beyond the hosts with a strike in the 61st minute. Dhofar, which last won the title in 2012, is aiming to match the feat of Fanja, which has clinched the HM's Cup title a record nine times.
Dhofar won its first crown in 1977, while Oman Club had claimed its first title in 1979. Saham and Suwaiq won both their crowns in the last decade with Suwaiq lifting the titles in 2009 and 2013.
Saham won in 2010 and 2016. Oman Club, which is making a comeback to the top-flight domestic league, last won the pennant in 1994.