Oman have stormed into the Gulf Cup semi finals with a thumping 5-0 win over Kuwait last night thanks to a hat trick from super-sub Said Salim.
The win saw them finish top of Group B ahead of the United Arab Emirates, who also secured a semi final berth after a 2-0 win over Iraq.
In a tournament that has so far been short on goals, Oman bucked the trend when they dismantled a Kuwait side confident of progression.
Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali opened the scoring for the sultanate on the stroke of halftime when he got on the end of a delightful, defence-splitting pass from Ali Al-Busaidi and finished calmly.
If conceding in the 44th minute wasn’t bad enough for Kuwait, they quickly found themselves 2-0 down when Said Salim, who had replaced Mohammed Al-Seyabi just minutes earlier, tapped home in the third minute of stoppage time to give Oman a two-goal lead at the break.
It was the simplest of finishes for Salim after some neat build up play from Oman. Eid Mohammed played a clever ball in behind the defence for Saad Suhail, who smashed the ball across the face of goal. While Nawaf Al-Khaldy got a hand on the ball, he could only parry it directly to Salim who had the easiest of finishes.
No sooner had the second half kicked off than Oman found a third, after some poor defending from Khaled Ebrahim allowed Salim to control the ball in the box and fire home past Al-Khaldy.
More shambolic defending 10 minutes later gifted Salim his hat trick after a long clearance from Ali Al-Habsi caught the Kuwait defence napping. Inexplicably, Al-Khaldy came well off his line attempting to clear but was beaten by the bounce, and while Ebrahim did manage to dispose Al-Muqbali of the ball, his tackle only knocked the ball into the path of Salim who composed himself to secure his hat trick – in just 15 minutes of football.
In the final minute of regulation time Oman made it five when Al-Busaidi delivered another inch-perfect cross for Al-Muqbali, who beat Al-Khaldy to the ball to hammer the final nail in Kuwait’s coffin.
In the other Group B match UAE got the better of Iraq thanks to another brace from Ali Ahmed Mabkhout.
His first was another contender for goal of the tournament. Receiving the ball 25 yards out and corralled by three Iraqi players, he took a quick touch before rifling home a rocket into the top corner, giving Jalal Hassan Hachim no chance.
Just after the hour mark he secured his brace after a under hit pass from Ali Faez Atiyah was intercepted by Ahmed Khalil, who poked it in the path of Mabkhout who calmly curled his shot past Hachim.
The win was enough for UAE to advance to the semi finals, although Oman’s 5-0 win meant they finished second in Group B, setting up a blockbuster semi final against hosts Saudi Arabia on Sunday night.
After finishing top of Group B, Oman will play Qatar in the other semi final.