Late heartache for Saudi Arabia in ‘crucial’ Asian Games handball draw with Japan

The Saudi Arabian handball team conceded twice in the final 96 seconds against Japan on Monday night to tie. (Courtesy of Asian Games)
Updated 20 August 2018
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Late heartache for Saudi Arabia in ‘crucial’ Asian Games handball draw with Japan

  • Saudi Arabia are drawn with Japan, Iraq and reigning champions Qatar
  • With only the top two progressing to the semifinals, the result of the opening match with Japan was vital

JAKARTA: The Saudi Arabian handball team conceded twice in the final 96 seconds against Japan on Monday night to tie a match that coach Muhanna Al-Qamous had billed as crucial to their hopes of progressing to the Asian Games semifinals. Downcast, he said afterwards it felt more like a defeat.
Saudi Arabia, having coasted through the preliminary group stage, were drawn with Japan, Iraq and reigning champions Qatar in the secondary group stage.
With only the top two progressing to the semifinals, the result of the opening match with Japan was vital ahead of Wednesday’s clash with neighbors Qatar.
After an hour of play inside the GOR Popki Cibubur sports complex, it should have ended with Saudi smiles. Instead, with the final whistle blown at 26-26, there were shaking heads and disappointment.
“For us, we lost,” Al-Qamous told Arab News. “We led for the majority of the game, but we made some mistakes and paid the price. This is handball, these things happen and we still have a valuable point, but we are disappointed. We should have won. Our route to the semifinals now requires more work.”
Saudi trailed narrowly until the 18th minute, when left-wing Abdullah Alabbas scored from the 7-meter penalty line to draw his side level at 9-9. From that moment on, it only looked like there would be one winner, with Alabbas giving his side a three-point lead even after Hassan Al-Janabi had been dismissed. They finished the opening period with a 15-11 advantage.
“As I said before, this was the most important match for both sides,” said Al-Qamous. “We played very, very well during the match and were fighting all the time. We deserved to win, but some players got ahead of themselves, took risks in the hope of killing the game off, and it didn’t work. What can we do?”
The second period was equally as balanced, with both sides taking points in succession and the gap never growing greater than five.
Yet with just 15 minutes left and Saudi leading 21-16, Japan rallied, pulling it back quickly with three points in the space of three minutes. Center-back Yuto Agarie, pivotal in his side getting within two of a tie at 21-19, was instrumental again as his side eventually stole a 24-23 lead with just six minutes remaining.
Saudi soon regained their composure and took what appeared to be an unassailable 26-24 lead with a little under two minutes left on the clock. However 11 seconds later, and following a Japanese time-out, Agarie pulled one back before Testsuya Kadoyama converted a fast break opportunity to tie the game with 38 seconds left to play.
“The way we fought and led will stand us in good stead going forward,’ said Al-Qamous, who watched Qatar beat Iraq earlier in the day, although not by as comfortable a margin as many had predicted. They triumphed 26-20 to take control of the group.
“A place in the semifinals is still in our hands,” added Al-Qamous, who will lead Saudi at the World Championships next January in Germany and Denmark. “Iraq only lost to Qatar by six, so we know they are a good team. Maybe they will draw with Japan; that would definitely be the best result for us. But in this life, you must fight your own battles, not rely on others. That is what we will do, starting against Qatar.”


RESULTS
Group 1
Qatar 26-20 Iraq
Saudi Arabia 26-26 Japan

Group 2
Bahrain 29-23 Iran
Hong Kong 15-40 South Korea


Italy beats China 2-0 to reach World Cup quarterfinals

Updated 32 min 10 sec ago
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Italy beats China 2-0 to reach World Cup quarterfinals

  • Italy will play either Japan or the Netherlands on Saturday in Valenciennes
  • China had only allowed one goal in its three group stage games but the talented Italian attack broke down the vaunted defense

MONTPELLIER, France: Valentina Giacinti and Aurora Galli scored and Italy earned its first appearance in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup since 1991 after beating China 2-0 on Tuesday night.
Giacinti created and finished off her 15th-minute opener before Galli’s long strike put the result beyond doubt four minutes after halftime at the stiflingly hot Stade de la Mosson.
Playing in its first World Cup in 20 years, Italy has proven to be one of the revelations of the tournament by making the final eight after winning its group ahead of Brazil and Australia.
Italy will play either Japan or the Netherlands on Saturday in Valenciennes.
China had only allowed one goal in its three group stage games but the talented Italian attack broke down the vaunted defense.
Galli scored after coming on to replace striker Cristina Girelli, who walked off the field late in the first half with an apparent leg problem.
But it was Giacinti who was a force in the early stage of the match.
While Girelli and Barbara Bonansea had combined for five goals in the group phase, Giacinti had yet to score in the tournament.
She threatened on two other occasions Tuesday before finally finding the back of the net. She thought she had struck an early goal but it was ruled offside. Another shot swerved wide of the post after Bonansea intercepted a poor pass by a Chinese defender.
Giacinti then produced the chance that led to her opening goal. After pressuring to win a ball near the touchline, she raced down the flank and found Bonansea, who waited to find left back Elsa Bartoli joining the move. Bartoli’s shot was blocked by China goalkeeper Peng Shimeng, only for Giacinti to pounce on the loose ball and drive it home.
China midfielder Wang Yan did manage to make Italy goalkeeper Laura Giuliani palm her effort over the bar in the 28th minute.
But Peng then had to dive to parry a powerful strike from Valentina Bergamaschi as Italy looked close to a quick second goal against a China team that couldn’t handle its press and its trio of attackers.
Once China settled down and eliminated sloppy passes, the action tilted momentarily to the other half. Forward Li Ying gave Bartoli fits with her dribbling and she made the Italian defenders work with her dangerous crosses.
Italy suffered a bigger blow when it lost Girelli in the 39th.
She was replaced by Galli, who surprised Peng with a right-footed strike that went skimming over the turf and beyond the goalkeeper’s reach.
It was Galli’s third goal of the tournament. She got two in a 5-0 rout of Jamaica, also as a substitute.
China pushed for a goal to spark a comeback, but center backs Sara Gama and Elena Linari kept Giuliani from having to make any significant saves.
Italy has scored nine goals in its three wins in the tournament.
The Italians also maintained their stingy defense with a second clean sheet. Both goals they have conceded so far came on penalties.
China went home with just one goal scored.