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Saudis survive as Qatar crash in Asian Cup

July 18, 2004 23:05 IST

Turkmenistan snatched a dramatic 2-2 draw against three-times champions Saudi Arabia, while Iraq were beaten 1-0 by Uzbekistan at the Asian Cup football tournament on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Philippe Troussier's reign as coach of Qatar could end on a sour note after the Gulf side were upset 2-1 by Indonesia. Troussier said on Saturday he would step down after the tournament.

Saudi Arabia, runners-up in Lebanon four years ago, were denied three points in Chengdu by a stoppage-time free kick from Begenchmuhammed Kuliyev.

A goal down to a sixth-minute header from Nazar Bayramov, injury-hit Saudi struck back moments later through a Yasser Al Qahtani penalty.

Turkmenistan defender Gochguly Gochguliev missed from the spot in the 53rd minute and when Al Qahtani scored with a looping header soon after it looked as if Saudi Arabia had survived against the former Soviet republic.

But in stoppage time, Kuliyev curled a free kick into the bottom corner to secure a point for Turkmenistan on their Asian Cup debut.

A furious Saudi coach Gerard van der Lem blamed fatigue for his team's failure to hold on for the win.

"I have players who haven't had a vacation in two years and you saw that in the football. We could not bring what we normally bring," said the Dutchman, who has lost seven key players in the build-up to the Asian Cup.


Uzbekistan seized the initiative in Group C with a 1-0 victory over Iraq in a pulsating game decided by a superb free kick from captain Mirdjalal Kasimov in the 22nd minute.

Iraq, whose German coach Bernd Stange quit two weeks ago claiming he feared for his life amid the escalating violence in the country, chased the equaliser but could not find a way past Uzbekistani goalkeeper Evgene Safanov.

Indonesia, meanwhile, went top of Group A on three points thanks to goals from Budi Sudarsono and Ponaryo Astaman in a game played at a virtually empty stadium.

Hosts China were held 2-2 by Bahrain in the opening match of the tournament on Saturday.

AFC general secretary Peter Velappan complained bitterly about the swathes of empty seats during that match.

However, there were less than 1,000 fans in Beijing to watch Qatar play Indonesia while only 5,000 turned up in Chengdu.

The Asian Cup is being viewed as an early test for Chinese authorities before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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