(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Oman joined table-topper Palestine as the two teams from Group D to qualify for the Asian Cup 2019 UAE with two games to spare as Pim Verbeek's side recorded a 3-1 win over the hosts, Maldives, in Male on Tuesday.
Striker Khalid al Hajri and an own goal from Ali Amdhan handed Oman a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes at the National Stadium only for Ali Fasir to reduce the deficit for the hosts midway through the first half.
Experienced midfielder Ahmed Mubarak 'Kanu' restored Oman's advantage just before the hour mark, coupled with Palestine's earlier 10-0 win over Bhutan, the pair is guaranteed a top-two finish and a place in the 24-team tournament in the UAE as the first qualifiers for the finals.
Oman captain Ali al Habsi celebrates his team's win over Maldives
For Oman, it is the fourth time it will appear in the group stage of the Asian Cup having also qualified two years ago in Australia, with Palestine securing a second consecutive appearance having made its debut in 2015. With September's 5-0 home win over the Maldives still fresh in its memory, Oman made a fast start as Hajri opened the scoring after 14 minutes. And Oman doubled its advantage four minutes later as Amdhan turned the ball past Maldives goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal. The home side, though, regrouped and hit back after 24 minutes as Fasir converted a pass from Mohamed Umair's assist to slam past Oman captain Ali al Habsi.
But Oman was not to be denied as Kanu restored the two-goal advantage to secure its third win of the campaign.