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Muscat: Captain Ali Al Habsi hailed his teammates’ concentration and application after Oman handed Bhutan a 14-0 thrashing to kick-off their attempt to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 in emphatic fashion.

The gulf in class between the two teams was evident from the early stages of the Group D game in Muscat as Abdulaziz Al Muqbali scored six times while Khalid Al Hajri (pictured above) claimed four in what turned out to be a record-breaking performance by the Omanis.

“We managed to have a good performance,” said the Reading goalkeeper. “After scoring seven goals sometimes it is hard. A big win is good, it will give us confidence and it means that we had a good concentration throughout the match.

“It was a start that was even better than what we wanted. The next match against Palestine is an important match and it will be really hard. They have good players but hopefully we will be ready for the match.”

Oman played the game without the presence of recently installed head coach Pim Verbeek after the Dutchman returned home due to a family bereavement, leaving assistant coach Muhanna Said (pictured above) in charge of team affairs. 

The Omanis had few concerns, however, as the Gulf state notched up the biggest ever win in the country’s history against an outclassed opponent.

“It was a good start to our campaign as we achieved a historic win,” said Said. “We gained a lot of advantages from this match as we gave the chance to some players who earned a lot of confidence with the big victory that we managed.

“We returned the trust of our fans who were happy with the historic result and we managed to score a lot of goals which will help us in our campaign.”

Oman will take on Palestine in a challenging match-up in the next round of games after the Palestinians, who qualified for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia, made a winning start of their own with a 3-0 defeat of the Maldives in Male.

All three goals came in the second-half, with Ahmad Maher striking twice after coming off the bench before fellow substitute Ahmed Abu Nahia added the third to end the home-side’s resistance and leave coach Abdel Nasser Barakat in a confident frame of mind.

“I am very sure we will qualify for the Asian Cup after this win against the Maldives,” said Barakat.

“The Maldives played very well in the first-half and we took some time to adjust and we knew that the substitute players would make the difference. We missed the chances we had when we played Yemen (a 1-0 win in a friendly on March 22) but tonight we used the chances we got. 

“It was a deserved win for us. The Maldives played well in the first-half but due to fitness problems the Maldives were not that good in the second half.”

Maldives coach Darren Stewart, meanwhile, shouldered the burden of the loss after seeing his side slip up in front of their own fans.

“I take the full responsibility of this defeat,” said the Australian. “It's not a problem of the football association and the players. The players tried their level best and I appreciate that. 

“I made a mistake in this match and that's because I took too much time to make the changes. And if I had done that before, the result might have been different. We aimed to get a point against Palestine.

“This a disappointing result for us as the upcoming games will be tough. But if we can get a good result against Bhutan we still have a chance.” 

Photos: OFA & FAM