Saudi Arabia qualifies for knockout stage, Thailand boosts their chances

Saudi Arabia qualifies for knockout stage, Thailand boosts their chances

QLNews
By QLNews

Saudi Arabia marched to a comfortable 2-0 win over nine-man Kyrgyzstan in Group F of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Sunday.

A second win on the trot for the three-time champions, in front of 39,557 fans, confirmed their place in the round of 16. Kyrgyzstan have no point from their two games.

Meanwhile, Thailand boosted their hopes of advancing to the competition’s next round after holding Oman to a goal-less draw in the other Group F game. 

The result took Thailand to four points, with them playing their next game against Saudi Arabia.

Thailand had defeated Kyrgyz Republic 2-0 in their opener while Oman suffered a 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia. 

After an intense start, Kyrgyzstan found themselves in trouble after just nine minutes when they were reduced to ten men with Aizar Akmatov receiving a red card for a reckless challenge on Sami Al Naji just outside the box.

Mohammed Al Burayk curled the resulting free-kick towards the top corner, but goalkeeper Erzhan Tokotaev made a flying save to deny him.

The opening Saudi goal arrived in the 35th minute when Abdulelah Al Malki’s powerful strike from long range cannoned off the post. Saud Abdulhamid was the first to the rebound, crossing for Mohammed Kanno who fired it into the the far post.

Kyrgyzstan’s woes were compounded five minutes into the second half following another heavy challenge, this time from Kimi Merk on Hassan Tambakti. While the 19-year-old Kyrgyz midfielder received his marching orders, the Saudi defender hobbled off and was replaced by Saleh Al Shehri.

Saudi Arabia got their second goal in the 85th minute through substitute Faisal Al Ghamdi. The young midfielder fired an effort from the edge of the area that proved too powerful for goalkeeper Tokotaev. His attempt to punch it away ended up with the ball in the back of the net.

Saudi Arabia will round off their group stage journey with a top-of-the-table clash against Thailand at the Education City Stadium on Thursday.

Thailand played a solid game against Oman in their 0-0 draw at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.

While Thailand showed slightly more initiative in the early minutes, both teams began the match with a measured approach and avoided too many offensive forays.

The War Elephants had their first chance when a 15th-minute corner kick from Teerathon Bunmathan was powerfully headed towards the Oman goal by defender Elias Dolah. However, the attempt was cleared by midfielder Abdullah Fawaz after being initially punched away by goalkeeper Ibrahim Al Mukhaini.

Oman began to find their footing, Issam Al Sabhi receiving Jameel Al Yahmadi’s cross at an opportune position inside the box but his left-footed shot to the centre of the goal was blocked by Thai goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungneon.

The West Asian side closed the half strongly but couldn't find a breakthrough as they took the stalemate into the break. 

A more determined Thailand took the field in the second half and they created several opportunities to score.

Branko Ivankovic-led Oman came to life as the clock hit the 70th minute and began to pile pressure on the Thai defence, most notably with Khalid Al Baikri’s free-kick finding Al Sabhi inside the six-yard box, but his attempt to poke the ball into the Thai net was deftly parried away by the goalkeeper. 

Oman’s frustration grew as the minutes ticked away and when the final whistle was blown, it was Thailand who were clearly the happier of the two sides.

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