Two goals in three minutes from Mohammed Al Sahlawi put the Saudi Arabian Asian Cup campaign back on track. Saudi Arabia ran out convincing 4-1 winners (and it should’ve been more) but not before a scare went through the Saudi camp.
DPR Korea started the game very differently to how they left the Uzbekistan game, full of determination and desire. This was a different team to the one that limped through the opening game which excited the strong Melbourne crowd. Ryang Yong Gi created history on the 11th minute when he scored the first goal for DPR Korea in 23 years of AFC Finals tournament play. DPR Korea were very deserving of their lead and the first real upset of the cup was looming.
Naif Hazair restored Saudi pride when he finished a well worked team goal on the stroke of 37 minutes. You had a feeling the goal was coming from the three time champions and it was certainly needed. For the remainder of the half Saudi Arabia managed to control the play and their crowd found their voice. Saudi Arabia almost scored another just before the half time break, but keeper Ri Myong Guk was up to the challenge.
Saudi Arabia only took six minutes to take the lead and restore their campaign. Mohammed Al Sahlawi’s goal gave the Saudi’s a vital lead and you could feel the ascendancy heading away from the hard working Korean’s. A defence mix up that was more suited to Sunday league defending three minutes later effectively killed off the game and any chance of a North Korean fairytale. Calamitous defending was the cause of the third goal, and naturally heads were bowed and confidence destroyed. The compact pressing began taking it’s toll on DPR Korea and the fuel gauge was quickly reaching empty.
With 15 minutes to go an adventurous attempt from midfielder Ri Yong Jik to stop the ball from crossing the line was met with a red card and his marching orders from the tournament. The ensuing penalty from Nawaf Al Abid was missed, but followed up and ended up in the back of the net along with the DPR Korean keeper. It was a gallant attempt from Ri Myong Guk but the ball still ended up crossing the line. The score line of 4-1 was how the game would end but the Saudi’s could’ve made it so many more. Missed opportunities could prove crucial and could ultimately see them miss out on qualification to the knock out stage.
The crowd of 12,349 really rallied behind the Korean team, something which Jo Tong-sop mentioned at the press conference, Melbournian fans left the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium knowing they had experienced yet another entertaining game of Asian Cup football, and maybe their only chance to see a DPR Korean team in action.
For Saudi Arabian coach Cosmin Olaroiu the focus was firmly on their last remaining group game with Uzbekistan stating “It’s good to win the game. We scored goals, we played good in the second half and I hope we gave good morale, encouragement and support for the players for the next game”.
Saudi Arabia will need to be at their best when they take on Uzbekistan in their final game, while DPR Korea will be looking for constant improvement against an improving Chinese team. The Socceroos will be eagerly watching the final game of the group with a quarter final opponent not known as yet.
Final Result: Saudi Arabia 4 (Naif Hazazi 37′, Mohammed Al Sahlawi 52′, 54 Nawaf Al Abid 77′)defeated DPR Korea 1 (Yong-Gi Ryang 11′)
Crowd: 12,349 at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadum – Thoroughly entertained by the Asian Cup once again. Personally I was expecting about 5,000 but I severly underestimated the passion of the Melbourne sporting public.
Referee: Abdullah Mohammed Al Hilali (Oman) Better than his countryman’s performance last night, but don’t think we will be seeing him in the knock out phase.
Written by David Hards – @hardsy05
China overcame a 1-0 deficit to record an exceptional 2-1 win over Uzbekistan which cements them in top spot of Group B regardless of Match-day 3 results. The win ensures that China qualify for the knockout stage for the first time since the hosted the tournament in 2004.
The match started with early chances going to both nations in a fairly open affair before Odil Ahmedov put the Uzbeks ahead in the 22nd minute. Ahmedov took the ball in an attacking position and his shot took a wicked deflection which sent the ball curving over Chinese keeper Wang Delai into the top right corner of the goal.
As the Uzbeks took the lead, China started to lose their way and their early efforts in the match seemed to slow down and the Uzbeks well and truly took over the match until the half-time whistle was blown.
The second half started and the match seemed to completely turn on its head as it was China who came out more positively and creating the better chances of the two teams.
Just as it looked like China were getting the upper hand in the match, a scramble in and around the left edge of the box resulted in a ball being drifted back into the centre of the box where Chinese talisman Wu Xi was waiting and coolly volleyed the ball past Uzbek keeper Nesterov and into the back of the net.
The equaliser for China seemed to worsen the morale even more for the Uzbeks as China started to really put the pressure on and push for a go-ahead goal.
In the 66th minute, China brought on winger Sun Ke in an effort to find their winner and it paid off as less than 2 minutes after coming on, Ke cut inside his defender just outside the box before releasing a strike that curled past Nesterov and put his nation in the lead.
Uzbekistan struggled to gain any ground for the entire second half, with minimal chances being allowed by the Chinese defence and it was China who should furthered their lead but chances to Linpeng and Xi were poorly executed but in the end turned out not to be decisive.
China held on to their lead for the remainder of the match and walked off deserved winners at the end of the match.
The win gives China an unbeatable lead at the top of Group B which will ensure they will qualify for the quarterfinals no matter the result against North Korea or the other group match in Saudi Arabia against Uzbekistan.
Final Result – China 2 (Wu Xi 55’, Sun Ke 68’) defeated Uzbekistan 1 (Odil Ahmedov 22’)
Crowd – 13,674 at Brisbane Stadium – Vocal crowd which really got behind the Chinese team and was treated to a wonderful match by their countrymen.
Written by Chris Avnell – @pureavgas
Team Played Points Goal Difference
China 2 6 +2
Saudi Arabia 2 3 +2
Uzbekistan 2 3 0
Jordan 2 0 -4
Asian Cup 2015 Attendance Running Total: 194,724Google+