Thu, Jul 26, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Saudi Arabia upset Japan in goalfest


Saudi Arabia reached the final of the Asian Cup for the sixth time in seven tournaments with a smash-and-grab 3-2 win over Japan.

The Saudis relied on thrusting, rapier counter-attacks yesterday to mug the Japanese, who dominated the ball without often threatening to turn possession into goals.

Livewire forward Malek Maaz netted a brace with strike partner Yasser Al Qahtani also scoring to set up a final against Iraq.

The game got the goal it desperately needed on 35 minutes. Adulrahman Al Qahtani won a free-kick on the left after somewhat typically throwing himself theatrically to the ground.

Taisir Al Jassam rose highest to meet his cross and the ball dropped kindly to Yasser Al Qahtani, who needed no second invitation.

The Japanese were level just two minutes later. Center-back Yuji Nakazawa ran unchecked from deep onto Yasuhito Endo's corner and headed home from 6m, without even a hint of a Saudi challenge.

The second period was not allowed to settle into a pedestrian affair as the Saudis broke the deadlock two minutes after the restart.

Taisir Al Jassam released Ahmed Al Bahri down the right and his pinpoint cross was headed home by Maaz at the near post.

Once again it took a goal to awake the Japanese. They drew level again after six more minutes.

Nachiro Takahara rose highest to head back Endo's corner for Yuki Abe to volley home acrobatically.

As in the first half, Japan dominated the ball but the Saudis were always dangerous on the break.

On 57 minutes they went in front again through a brilliant individual strike from Maaz, who twisted and turned two defenders before finishing with the outside of his boot.

Substitute Ahmed Al Mousa had a chance to finish the game on 64 minutes but greedily opted to shoot when a pass was needed.

Another substitute Naotake Hanyu almost took the tie into extra-time but thudded the bar from 25m with nine minutes to play.

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