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Asian Cup: Coach sacked after Syria stun Saudi

January 10, 2011 18:43 IST

Saudi Arabian football chiefs sacked coach Jose Peseiro on Sunday immediately after his demoralized side slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of unfancied Asian Cup outsiders Syria.

The 2007 finalists and three-time champions announced that Nasser Al Johar will take over from the 50-year-old Portuguese for the remainder of the showpiece event in Doha.

The Saudis had been expected to compete for the title alongside the likes of Japan, Australia and South Korea, but a brace from Abdulrazak Al Husein consigned them to defeat against Syria.

Peseiro -- the first coaching casualty of the Asian Cup -- had already faced heavy criticism after failing to steer his side to the World Cup last year and has had tetchy relations with the Saudi press ever since.

Saudi media again questioned Peseiro's tactics and team selection in the post-match press conference, and there were several laughs of derision when he declared his team would still win the Asian Cup.

With Japan and Jordan drawing 1-1 earlier in the day, the unheralded Syrians top the Group B table after one of the biggest victories in their footballing history and celebrated afterwards like they had won the tournament.

"I didn't expect to win but I expected us to play well," said Syria's Romanian coach Tita Valeriu, who has only been in the job a few weeks.

"It was a great game. I had only a very short time to coach the team but we used a formation that worked very well. That was the key," he added.

Syria had marginally the better of the tense opening exchanges, midfielder Wael Ayan flashing the ball wide with a left-footed half-volley on three minutes that never troubled Saudi keeper Waleed Abdullah.

Jose PeseiroThat was the highlight of an unattractive opening spell at a three-quarters full Al-Rayyan Stadium.

The prolific Yasser Al Qahtani, the Saudi Arabian captain and their talisman, then had his first whiff of an opportunity, but he was snuffed out by some dogged Syrian defending inside the six-yard box. Nicknamed "the Sniper" for his pinpoint accuracy in front of goal, Al Qahtani had been a doubt for the game with a foot injury and he hardly looked fit.

Ayan was always a willing outlet on the left for the Syrians, who entered the tournament after a shambolic preparation that saw Valeriu become their third coach in three months.

But it was Saudi Arabia who should have taken the lead but Al Qahtani's strike partner Nassir Alshamrani slotted the ball wide when he ought to have done better.

Roared on by vocal Syrian support, Mohamad Al Zino then brought a smart save out of Waleed with the Saudi keeper diving low to his right to palm the ball away.

On 38 minutes Syria took the lead. Saudi defender Osama Hawsawi could only clear the ball as far as Al Husein, who shot first time from just outside the box with the ball deflecting in off the head of Abdullah Shuhail.

Syria carried the momentum into the second-half, immediately putting their more highly-rated opponents on the backfoot.

However, the Saudis then enjoyed a sustained period of possession and on the equaliser can on the hour -- a moment of horror for Syrian keeper Mosab Balhous.

His unconvincing punch from a corner was headed back towards goal by substitute Taiseer Al Jassam.

It should have been a routine save, but the captain inexplicably flapped at the ball, letting it slip between his legs and into the net.

But the Saudis were level for just three minutes as Al Husein grabbed his second, the ball again going in off a Saudi defender after the midfielder followed up on a sloppy clearance.

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