It was a night when goalkeepers stole the limelight. First it was Al Arouba’s goalie, Abdulaziz al Hasani, who came up with some good saves to take his team to a penalty shootout against the fancied Dhofar. And then it was Faiz al Rusheidi, the Dhofar and national team custodian, whose save got the Salalah giants a record-tying ninth His Majesty’s Cup title at the Rustaq Sports Complex on Sunday.
After both the teams were reduced to ten men each in regulation time and extra-time failed to end the stalemate, Dhofar won the contest 5-4 after Rusheidi blocked Al Arouba’s Thuwaini Hadid al Mukhaini’s fifth penalty following Dhofar’s Oman al Malki successful conversion of his spot kick.
In the shootout, Dhofar’s experienced defender Mohammed al Musalami, midfielder Mohammed al Mashari, young Abdullah Fawaz and Saleh al Yahyaei were on target along with Malki. For Arouba, Sami al Hasani, Khalid Saleh, and African imports Sula Matafou and Diop Assane found the back of the net to make it 4-4 before the national team goalie came up with the save that earned Dhofar glory.
Later, H H Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham al Said, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, handed over the glittering trophy to Dhofar captain Ali Salim and club chairman Sheikh Ali bin Ahmed al Rawas in the presence of the club’s patron H E Abdulaziz al Rawas, .
Dhofar’s ninth title has put them in a tie with Fanja for the record number of titles. The Salalah heavyweights also hold the record of maximum domestic league crowns – 11.
Dhofar’s win ended a sevenyear wait to come level with Fanja after the latter won the ninth title in 2013-2014 season. Prior to Sunday’s crown, Dhofar last won the final in 2011-2012 season when they defeated Al Ittihad.
For Al Arouba, hopes to end a disappointing season on a positive note failed after the Sharqiyah powerhouse was relegated to the Oman Football Association First Division from the Omantel League.
The club was attempting to win their fifth HM’s crown, having last won in 2014-15 season. On the pitch, it was a tale of missed chances for Dhofar, whose strikers, in particular, Spanish Hugo Lopez fumbled on more than couple of occasions to seal the match in their favour.
Though Arouba put up a good fight, it was Dhofar that dominated the goal possession and had the better of chances during the 120 minutes of play.
Dhofar had an early opportunity in the sixth minute with Yazid al Mashani’s shooting straight to Arouba goalkeeper Hasani. Yahyaei was then involved in a run inside the box two minutes later but his feeble attempt was no problem for Hasani. Dhofar continued to attack and Lopez missed first of his several chances around the halfhour mark with his side-footed shot lacking power and precision.
Few minutes later, Lopez’s header was off target as Arouba defenders held firm to deny their much experienced rivals.
Both the teams went into the interval without any success and soon after resumption, Yahyaei’s pile-driver was saved by Hasani. With the teams failing to break the deadlock, nerves and frustration took over and in the 50th minute, Dhofar’s Ali al Khamisi was found to have hit the back of Arouba’s captain Ahmed al Mukhaini during a corner kick.
Referee Omar al Yaqoobi gave a straight red after consulting the linesman and Arouba had the numerical advantage. However, the advantage lasted only ten minutes as Arouba’s Mukhaini received his second yellow following a hand ball and was sent off.
With the teams reduced to ten men each, the pace of the game slowed down but Dhofar looked to be more enterprising in creating moves.
Except for Arouba’s goalbound move in the 69th minute, which Rusheidi did well to save, it was Dhofar that had the better of exchanges. The match’s best chance came ten minutes before the final whistle when Lopez had just the goalkeeper Hasani to beat but hit it straight.
A spate of substitutions were made by both teams but the deadlock remained with Arouba goalie Hasani coming up with another good save in the 115th minute to force a shootout.