World Cup qualifier: Saudi Arabia beat UAE 3-0 in Jeddah
It was a seven-minute second-half spell of attacking play from the Saudis that saw the UAE swoon and never recover.
Saudi Arabia thrashed the UAE by three goals in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers match at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on Tuesday night.
For most part of the night, however, the match looked to end in a hard-fought draw for the UAE. It was a seven-minute second-half spell of attacking play from the Saudis that saw the UAE swoon and never recover.
Wonder strikes from Fahad Al Muwallad and Nawaf Al Abed left the defence running for cover. There was no fight left and Yahya Al Shehri piled more misery with an injury-time free-kick. The UAE back-line had held good for most part but once the resistance level was broken, goals flowed for the 'Green Falcons'. Fans at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium - 60,102 of them - had a gala time.
For the 'Whites', their start was a complete reversal to how the night ended. The UAE were bundles of energy and striker Ali Mabkhout induced a save from keeper Yasser Al Mosailem early in the 17th minute. The 'Whites' kept pressure through Ahmed Khalil and Omar Abdulrahman, who constantly tested the Saudi defence. In the 24th minute, defender Mohanad Salem had a goal-scoring opportunity go begging when he headed wide of a corner.
Veteran keeper Majed Naser made some decent and diving saves to keep the Saudi scoreless. He confidently tackled the attacks and back four too defended solidly.
Saudi midfielder Taisir Al Jassim was involved in a freak incident that left him with in a bloody mess. Saudi Arabia had their moments through Yahya Al Shehri and Nawaf Al Abed but both were off target.
Both team started the second half in search of goal. Saudi defender Mansoor Al Harbi came close but couldn't control his header. Tempers were rising as the Saudi were going down too easily. With 30 minutes left on the clock both sides started pushing forward. The hosts and the visitors suffered a common ailment - finishing.
Coach Mahdi Ali brought in attacking midfielder Habib Fardan and intent was clear. Just as the UAE pushed forward, the 'Green Falcons' struck.
In the 73rd minute, it was substitute Fahad Al Muwallad, who powered in a thunderous shot to make it 1-nil. The UAE defence was caught napping and Muwallad was alert to the opportunity on Salman Al Faraj's perfect pass from the middle.
Just six minutes later, Nawaf Al Abed converted on an assist from Taisir Al Jassam. Keeper Naser had made one diving save but couldn't parry Abed's slam-bang.
The UAE still pushed forward but in dying minutes, Yahya Al Shehri earned a free-kick just outside the danger area. He scored directly and Naser was left wondering how it happened.
With this win, Bert van Marwijk's side are now top of Group B. For Mahdi Ali, there are key lessons in defence from this fourth-match on road to the Cup. Ali has lot of boardroom and on-field work to do before they face Iraq at home on November 15.
Goals: Saudi Arabia (3): Fahad Al Muwallad (73), Nawaf Al Abed (79), Yahya Al Shehri (90+2)
Cards: Saudi Arabia: Taisir Al Jassam UAE: Abdulzaiz Haikal
Substitution: Saudi Arabia: Fahad Al-Muwallad (66), Naif Hazazi (86), Motaz Hawsawi (90+3) UAE: Hassan Safar (59), Habib Fardan (72), Saeed Al Kathiri (81)
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