Hockey: Ahli-Sidab claims 11th title
The last time these two hockey powerhouses, Ahli-Sidab and Seeb, met in the prestigious His Majesty’s Cup Hockey Championship final was way back in December 2015.
Back then, Ahli-Sidab had edged past its traditional rival 2-1, and on Monday, the result, once again, was in favour of Ahli-Sidab, which won the title rather convincingly with a 3-0 verdict at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex (SQSC).
The victory also enabled Ahli-Sidab to have a share of glory on the overall honours list as it now has matched Seeb’s record haul of 11 titles.
The fact that these two clubs share a total of 22 trophies between them in the 48 tournaments so far is a testimony of the dominance of the two clubs.
The victory was also a sweet revenge for Ahli-Sidab, which had suffered a 4-7 loss in the opening match of 2018 edition with Seeb pumping in three goals in the last ten minutes.
In his post-match remarks to Muscat Daily, Ahli-Sidab’s coach K K Poonacha of India attributed the opening match loss as a ‘lesson’ that his boys learnt quickly to make a ‘terrific comeback’.
“I think the defeat in the opening match, where we conceded three goals in the final quarter, was a big lesson. That loss turned out to be a catalyst for my boys as we could come back strongly in the remaining games, including today’s final,” said the former Oman coach.
This was the fourth HM’s Cup trophy for Poonacha with Ahli-Sidab, having led the club to back-to-back titles in 2011, 2012 and then in 2016.
“We played better game and were in command throughout the match. It was a deserving victory and my boys executed my plans properly,” said Poonacha, who flies in from India to train the team only for big tournaments.
On the pitch on Monday, Ahli-Sidab rode on the brilliance of Indian star Rupinder Pal Singh, who struck a brace.
The experienced drag-flicker slammed home a penalty corner in the 33rd minute and then rounded off the team’s tally with a penalty-stroke conversion in the 58th minute.
Earlier, the teams started on a cautious note and it was only in the last-minute of the first quarter that Ahli-Sidab broke the deadlock when Oman international Ashraf Talib found the net.
Later, H E Sheikh Saif bin Mohammed al Shabibi, Minister of Housing, who was the chief guest, gave away the trophy and the individual awards.
Ahli-Sidab captain Salah al Saadi received the trophy from H E Shabibi while the club’s chief, Marwan al Juma, received the cash award of RO40,000 for the win. Seeb took home RO25,000 for the runner-up finish and Al Nasr, which had won the title last year and came third, took home RO15,000.
Also present at the final were H E Sheikh Saad al Saadi, the Minister of Sports Affairs, Talib al Wahaibi, the Oman Hockey Association president, ministers, Royal Family members, excellencies and other officials.
Individual awards: Best player of the tournament: Rashad al Fazari (Ahli-Sidab), best goalkeeper: Amjad al Hasani (Ahl-Sidab), top scorer: Mohammed Dilber (Seeb, eight goals).