Oman recorded a 3-1 victory over hosts Maldives in a decisive game on Tuesday night at the Galolhu National Stadium in Male’. The result saw, Oman extend their lead over Maldives to six points after 4 games, as they lie on second place with 9 points, meanwhile Maldives are on third place with just two games to play.
This means, in case of head-to-head records counting, in the event of a tie between countries, Maldives would be incapable of climbing over Oman in the standings as they have lost both of their games against the latter.
In the other game of Group D, Palestine humiliated Bhutan by 10-0 as they remained at the top of the table with 12 points from 4 games.
For Oman, it is the fourth time they will appear in the group stage of the AFC Asian Cup having also qualified two years ago in Australia, with Palestine securing a second consecutive appearance having made their debut in 2015.
Maldives came into this game, without their first choice strikers as both, Ali Ashfaq and Asadhulla Abdulla missed out due to an injury, while Ahmed Rasheed was also a notable absentee after suffering an injury.
On the other hand, Oman were boosted with the return of legendary goal keeper and Captain Ali Al Habsi and star striker Abdul Aziz Al Maqbali to the squad after missing the previous encounter against Maldives in Muscat.
Oman dominated the proceedings as they threatened with a free-kick in the opening minute of the game in which Mohsin Jouhar dragged his shot wide from just outside the box.
In the seventh minute, the first real chance of the game fell to Mohamed Umair but he fired the shot straight into the gloves of Oman Keeper Ali Al Habsi after receiving a brilliant pass from Ali Fasir.
Khalid Khalifa Al-Hajri broke the deadlock for Oman on 14 minutes with an easy header from inside the box after receiving a cross down the right side.
Five minutes later, Oman were 2-0 up after another poor defending from Maldives which handed the ball to Jameel Al Yahmadi whose shot deflected off a defender and went past helpless Mohamed Faisal.
Then on 23 minutes, Fasir pulled one back for Maldives with a decent finish from inside the box into the far-corner of the net, having received a brilliant ball from Naiz Hassan.
Three minutes before the break, Sami Al Hasani had the ball in the net but it was ruled out offside.
Few minutes into the second half, Fasir had another decent chance from a very tight angle but his shot was punched away for a corner by Al Habsi.
In the 50th minute, Ali Sulaiman Al Busaidi tried his luck from the distance but his shot went straight to Maldives keeper Mohamed Faisal.
Just around hour mark, Al-Hajri had a wonderful chance from inside the box when his headed attempt hits the cross bar before Ahmed Mubarak restored the two-goal cushion on the rebound shot moments later.
There were further chances for Al Hasani and Al-Hajri but both of their shots were blocked by Maldivian team’s defenders.
Al-Maqbali had one last chance for Oman with one minute from time but his shot went straight to keeper Faisal.