Omantel Professional League: Shabab back to winning ways

A week after it suffered its first defeat of the year and only the second of the 2016-2017 season, Al Shabab returned to its winning ways as it edged past Al Nahda 1-0 in the Omantel Professional League (OPL) at the Seeb Sports Stadium on Friday.

The victory kept Shabab on top of the OPL after the 20th round of action with 42 points as it moves closer to clinching its maiden domestic league crown.

Shabab had lost to Al Arouba 1-2 at the Sur Sports Complex in the previous round on April 7.  It was the club’s only second defeat of the season, with the previous loss coming against Sohar in the eighth round in October.

However, the team bounced back after the loss against Arouba as it squeezed past three-time champion Al Nahda to keep its grip on the top spot. Shabab has not been displaced from the OPL summit since

it climbed to the top in December.

Shabab's Brazilian striker Loks, who is among the leading scorers of the season with nine goals, once again was the hero of the team's victory as he scored in the 18th minute of the match.

The team, coached by Salim Sultan, has now won 12 matches, the maximum by any club so far in the season, and with six draws and two defeats, it is four points ahead of its nearest rival and Salalah giant Dhofar. 

Dhofar, a nine-time winner, which shares the record of maximum titles with Fanja, missed an opportunity to close in on the leader as it was held to a 1-1 draw by Al Khabourah at the Salalah Sports Complex on Saturday.

Dhofar rallied from a 29th minute goal from Khabourah's Mubarak al Breiki to level in the 60th minute through Elias Maguri.

Al Arouba wasted a chance to close in on Dhofar as the former champion was held to a 1-1 draw by Muscat at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Saturday.

Zomana of Arouba got an early goal but Fedran slammed in the equaliser in the 76th minute for the teams to share the spoils. Arouba has 35 points while three teams – Al Nahda, Fanja and Sohar – are fighting for the fourth spot with 29 points each.

Defending champion Fanja recorded a convincing 3-0 win over Sohar at Sohar Sports

Complex on Friday while Al Nasr got the better of another Batinah side, Saham, with a 1-0 win in Salalah.

Elsewhere, Suwaiq's impressive run continued as it followed its entry into the prestigious His Majesty's Cup final against Dhofar last week with a 2-0 win over relegation-threatened Rustaq.

And in another match, Oman drew goalless with Jalan at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Saturday.

Standings [after 20 rounds]: 1 Al Shabab (42 pts), 2 Dhofar (38), 3 Al Arouba (35), 4 Al Nahda (29), 5 Fanja (29), 6 Sohar (29), 7 Al Nasr (28), 8 Al Suwaiq (27), 9 Muscat (25), 10 Saham (24), 11 Al Khabourah (22), 12 Oman (20), 13 Al Rustaq (16), 14 Jalan (14).

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