Suwaiq, Fanja top contenders as league heads for close finish

A file photo of Fanja players in action during a recent league match

With the 2012-13 Omantel Elite League heading for a tight finish, the championship is set to be a toss-up between table topper Al Suwaiq and second-placed Fanja while third-placed Saham has an outside chance.

The three contenders are bracing up for their final-round matches to be played on Sunday.

Two-time champion Suwaiq will take on eighth-placed Musannah at the Seeb Sports Stadium while eight-time winner Fanja will meet fifth-placed Al Nasr at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex (SQSC) at the same time.

Suwaiq and defending champion Fanja are tied on 47 points each, but the former has its nose ahead on goal-difference in the 14-team league.

Suwaiq-players

Suwaiq players during a recent Omantel Elite League game

Interestingly, if both the teams finish with the same number of points, a playoff will decide the league winner.

Meanwhile, Saham, which has 45 points, is also in the race for the title as it prepares for a must-win game against Oman Club, to be played at the Sohar Sports Complex.

Saham can clinch its maiden title if it wins, but provided Suwaiq and Fanja lose their final-round games.

Ahmed al Habsi, the Oman Football Association's (OFA) competition committee chief, said, “We are heading towards a tight and interesting end to the season. In fact, we have got three trophies ready this year - one for each of the three venues for Sunday's matches at Seeb, Sohar and the SQSC.”

Habsi added, “If two teams finish on equal points, we will have a playoff on May 22. But then again, if three sides finish on equal points, we will check the head-to-head records of the three teams. The one with the highest number of points will be declared winner.”

Batinah-based Suwaiq, which won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, is coached by Musabah al Saadi.

His team has lost only two games from 25 outings so far, winning 12 games and drawing 11.

Saadi said, “It is a must-win game for us. We don't want to worry about the results at the other matches, we want to focus on our match and try and win it. Musannah is a strong opponent, it held us 1-1 in our first-leg match. It won't be easy for us.”

The Suwaiq coach added, “My players are fit and mentally prepared for the final-round match at Seeb. We have some experienced players, like Hassan Rabee'a, Mohammed al Ghassani and keeper Faiz al Rushedi. They have been part of the national team in the past and know how to handle pressure.”

Fanja, which is coached by Hicham al Jadran of Spain, suffered a 0-4 drubbing at the hands of Al Qadsia of Kuwait in the 2013 AFC Cup pre-quarterfinal match last Wednesday.

Mohsin al Kharusi, Fanja's assistant coach, said, “The defeat in Kuwait won't affect our performance in the league as the two competitions are totally different. We are focussed and close to defending the domestic league title. It has been a tough and busy season for us and we would like to end it on a winning note.”

Kharusi added, “The team is in good shape and except for forward Younis al Mushaifri, who has been out for quite some time now, we don't have any injury worries ahead of Sunday's crucial game.”

Fanja is banking on its national team players Mohammed al Mussalami, Abdullah al Qassabi, Mohammed al Mashari and Mohammed Mubarak.

Fanja had edged out Al Nasr 1-0 in their first-leg clash.

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