BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia and South Korea both claimed late victories on a day of last-gasp drama at the Asian Football Confederation Under-23 Championship in Thailand.
Groups B and C began yesterday at the age-group tournament, which offers three places for the men’s Olympic Games competition at Tokyo 2020.
The Saudis beat 2016 winners Japan 2-1 at Thammasat Stadium in Rangsit, after Abdulrahman Ghareeb fired home an 88th-minute penalty in the Group B clash.
Makoto Okazaki had fouled Feras Al Brikan in the area, with the spot-kick confirmed by the video assistant referee system.
Ayman Al-Khulaif’s first-time finish had given Saudi Arabia the lead on 48 minutes, but Ryotaro Meshino replied eight minutes later with an effort which took a huge deflection to leave keeper Mohammed Al Yami wrong-footed.
There was also late heroics in the other Group B game, as Syria battled back from 2-0 down to earn a draw with Qatar.
Alaa Aldin Dali converted at the back post with four minutes played in added time to earn a share of the spoils after an entertaining encounter.
There was also an early goal as Qatar’s Yusuf Abdurisag tapped home with less than a minute on the clock after Syrian keeper Yusuf Abdurisag fumbled the ball.
Syria continued to be architects of their own downfall when Yosief Mohammad scored a 22nd-minute own-goal, but they gained a foothold nine minutes later thanks to Abdul Rahman Barakat’s header.
In Group C, Lee Dong-jun scored in the third minute of added time to earn South Korea a 1-0 win over China at Tinsulanon Stadium in Songkhla.
The substitute latched onto a long pass and stroked home a finish to prompt wild celebrations on the Korean bench.
Defending champions Uzbekistan had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Iran in the group’s other game.