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Saudis spoil Indonesia's party

July 14, 2007 22:29 IST

Saudi Arabia crashed Indonesia's Asian Cup party on Saturday by beating the co-hosts 2-1 in Group D thanks to Saad Al Harthi's stoppage-time winner.

After dominating for the better part of an hour, Indonesia simply ran out of gas in the latter stages.

Saudi Arabia, three times winners of Asia's premier soccer tournament, climbed to the top of the group on four points after the win, with Indonesia in second a point behind.

South Korea play Bahrain in the other group match on Sunday.

Indonesia coach Ivan Kolev, who had hoped for a brighter end to his 50th birthday, could not hide the heartbreak.

"I felt very disappointed for the team, especially for the supporters," said the popular Bulgarian, who received an ovation from the local media at the post-match news conference.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was among the 88,000 in attendance at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, hoping to see the home side clinch a quarter-final berth with a win.

Indonesia, backed by a manic home crowd, started brightly and carved out a couple of early chances, but it was Saudi Arabia that grabbed the lead in the 15th minute. 

Ahmed Al Bahri surged down the right and delivered an inviting cross into the box, where Yasser Al Qahtani snapped a header past Indonesia goalkeeper Yandri Pitoy.


The home side struck back five minutes later.

Elie Aiboy, who earlier spurned an opportunity with the goal at his mercy, latched onto a through ball and strode into the penalty area, drawing Saudi goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem and slotting home.

The Saudi keeper had to make two stunning stops just before half-time as Indonesia's impish wingers threatened to run riot, but they failed to press home the advantage.

Saudi Arabia looked the stronger side in the second half while the co-hosts wilted, and it was only goalkeeper Pitoy that kept Indonesia in the game.

But after two great saves to deny Abdulrahman Al Qahtani, Pitoy was finally beaten deep in injury time when substitute Al Harthi popped up to head home the winner.

The goal put Saudi in pole position in Group D, but coach Helio Cesar dos Anjos received more criticism than acclaim for his side's performance from the Saudi Arabian media. 

"There's no national team on the planet that can play a game without having a few problems," the Brazilian countered.

"It doesn't matter if it's Germany, Brazil or Argentina who were playing today, they all would have had problem moments."

Uzbekistan drub Malaysia

Maksim Shatskikh made a triumphant return from suspension to spark Uzbekistan to a 5-0 drubbing of hosts Malaysia in Asian Cup Group C in Kuala Lumpur.

Captain Shatskikh, suspended for Uzbekistan's 2-1 loss to Iran, scored twice as his side revived their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.

Tournament co-hosts Malaysia face almost certain elimination following their opening 5-1 defeat by China.

Striker Shatskikh, who plays for Dynamo Kiev, opened the scoring in the 10th minute, Timur Kapadze scored a classy goal on 20 minutes and Ulugbek Bakaev stroked home a penalty in first-half stoppage time to give Uzbekistan a 3-0 lead.

Substitute Aziz Ibragimov added a fourth after 85 minutes and Shatskikh struck four minutes later to give the Uzbeks three points from two matches, level with China and Iran who meet on Sunday.

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