HM’s Cup: Al Arouba set up title clash with Dhofar
Al Arouba's disappointing season could still see a trophy adorn their cabinet as the four-time champions eked out a narrow 1-0 win over surprise package Ibri Club in the second-leg semifinal of the 2019-2020 His Majesty's Cup Football Championship at the Sur Sports Complex on Saturday.
The 1-0 win, thanks to a powerful header from Yousuf al Mukhaini in the 88th minute of the match, steered the Sharqiyah club to the final on away goals rule, having lost the first-leg 1-2 in Ibri in February.
The triumph on Saturday set Al Arouba on course for an explosive summit clash with eight-time champions and Salalah heavyweights Dhofar.
The date of the final will be announced soon by the Oman Football Association (OFA).
A solitary goal turned out to be enough for Haitham al Alawi-coached Arouba side to reach the final but the coach would be a relieved man after seeing his strikers missing easy chances on Saturday.
Arouba had a miserable domestic top-flight 2019-20 season and were relegated from the Omantel League recently. The club was also penalised twice by the OFA Disciplinary Committee and docked six points in the top-flight after they were found guilty of fielding a player who had broken the quarantine safety protocol.
Earlier on Friday, Dhofar, too, kept themselves in hunt for the prestigious trophy after finishing runner-up to Seeb Club in the just-concluded Omantel League.
Playing at the Al Saada Sports Complex in Salalah, the eight-time HM's Cup champions and hosts drew with Al Nahda 0-0 in the second-leg to also advance to the final on away goals rule. Dhofar had played out a 1-1 draw with hosts Nahda in their away game in February.
Later speaking after the match, Dhofar coach Rasheed Jaber expressed 'satisfaction' at the team's result and said 'the primary goal was to ensure a spot in the final'.
Sheikh Ali bin Ahmed al Rawas, the club chairman, congratulated the players, coaching staff and the fans on the team's entry into the final.
“I am confident our players have the potential to bring back the prestigious trophy,” added Rawas.
Dhofar will be aiming to equal the long-standing HM's Cup record of nine titles won by Fanja Club. Dhofar last reached the final of the HM's Cup in 2017 when they lost 0-2 to Suwaiq in the summit clash. Their last title glory was achieved in 2011-12 when they edged past Al Ittihad in the final in December, 2011.
Dhofar's first title victory was way back in 1977 and the Salalah powerhouse won back-to-back crowns in 1980-81 before their fourth title came in 1990. The fifth trophy was grabbed in 1999 while they had twin successes between 2004-2007.
Arouba, too has tasted title wins in the sultanate's most coveted championship. The club's last title was in 2014-15 when they recorded a 2-0 win over Sur in Sharqiyah derby. Their maiden crown was in 1993 before tasting further gloryin 2001 and 2010-11.