Saudis Snatch Victory

Saudi Arabia beat co-hosts Indonesia 2-1 on their second match in the Asian Cup. Yassir al-Qahtani scored first, before Indonesia equalized few minutes later. It wasn’t until the dying moments of the match that substitute Saad al-Harthi scored his team second goal with a powerful header. The teams played to a packed stadium with more than 90,000 spectators, including the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The first few minutes were very tense due to the noise of the big crowd. But both teams quickly managed to get over the pressure and played some real football. Fifteen minutes into the match, Ahmed al-Bahri receives the ball on the right flank and sends an accurate cross to skipper Yassir al-Qahtani, who jumps high and sends the ball to the left right corner with a beautiful header into the net.

Since they were able to score early and silence the Indonesian crowd, I thought Saudis would extend their dominance over the match easily. But four minutes later, defender Osama Hawsawi cleared the ball to the direction of Saud Kariri, but the latter, marked by an opponent, could not control it properly and fell clumsily to give the opponent opportunity to send a pass to Elie Aiboy who beat goalkeeper al-Musaileem to score the equalizer.

Indonesians have realized that the only way to overcome the tactical and physical advantage of Saudis was to impose a high-tempo game on them. Playing their game, the red team managed to make several scoring chances, but they lacked the last touch in front of their oppenent net. The half-time break did not affect Indonesians that much as they continued with the same style, though they have become far less dangerous.

Saad Al-Harthi Joyous

However, twenty minutes into the second half, players of hosts have gotten tired. It was inevitable. Keeping that type of high-tempo style of play required far more abilities than Indonesians possessed. From that point on, and thanks to some changes by the Brazilian coach who introduced Abduh Autef and Taiseer al-Jassim to the match at the right time, Saudis dominated the remaining time. Both Abdul-Rahman al-Qahtani and Malek Muaath had chances but could not score.

When the match was coming to an end, right-back Ahmed al-Bahri gained a free-kcik on the right side of the box. Abdul-Rahman took the free-kick sending a swirling cross on the head of last-minute substitute Saad al-Harthi, who despite the marking of Indonesian defense succeeded to put ball in the net. Al-Harthi, who has come under much criticism after wasting an easy chance against Korea, ran screaming in joy as he helped his team to emerge victorious.

The national team will play their last match in the groups stage against Bahrain on Tuesday. Bahrain, who lost their opening match against Indonesia, will face Korea tomorrow in a match that will define the fate of Group D. All the best to our Bahraini brothers.