FOOTBALL – Saudi Arabia eased to a comfortable 2-0 win over Kyrgyzstan in their second Group F match of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, last night to take the top spot in the four-team table with six points and qualify for the round of 16.
Kyrgyzstan, reduced to nine men after Aizar Akmatove was sent off in the ninth minute and Kimi Merk in the 50th minute, were never really in the game with the Saudis dictating terms throughout.
Saudi Arabia nearly took the lead in the 10th minute but Mohammed Al Burayk’s curling free-kick was blocked by goalkeeper Erzhan Tokotaev.
Seventeen minutes later, the Saudis had another chance to go 1-0 up but an unmarked Feras Al Buraikan was unable to head a cross from Al Burayk into the goal.
Mohammed Kanno finally put them ahead, pouncing on a cross from Saud Abdulhamid to send it into the net in the 35th minute.
Kanno nearly scored a second time in the 72nd minute when he headed the ball, from a corner kick by Al Burayk, past Tokotaev only for it to hit the goal-post.
The second Saudi goal finally came in the 85th minute through substitute Faisal Al Ghamdi whose powerful strike deflected off Tokotaev’s hand into the goal.
The Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper was kept busy later on as he saved a curling shot from Abdulrahman Ghareeb and, soon afterwards, a header from Ali Al Bulayhi. Meanwhile, in the other Group F game yesterday, Thailand battled to a goalless draw with Oman at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha to move into second place in the table with four points.
Thailand had a chance to take the lead in the 15th minute but a header by Elias Dolah off a corner kick by Teerathon Bunmathan was punched away by Oman goalkeeper Ibrahim Al Mukhaini before being cleared by midfielder Abdullah Fawaz.
Soon afterwards, Oman had an opportunity to go 1-0 up but Issam Al Sabhi’s left-footed shot was stopped by Thai goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungneon.
After a scoreless first half, Thailand came out after the break looking determined to take the initiative and had another opportunity when Suphanat Mueanta intercepted a cross from Arshad Al Alawi and powered into the Oman box only to be thwarted by defender Ahmed Al Khamisi.
Oman retaliated immediately through captain Harib Al Saadi who dodged four Thai defenders before firing a shot at the goal but Tedsungneon was alert to the threat and made a fine save.
The Omanis appeared to find some rhythm after the 70th minute but the closest they came to scoring a goal was soon afterwards as Al Sabhi collected a free-kick from Khalid Al Baikri and sent the ball whistling towards the Thai goal where Tedsungneon made another brilliant save.