China stuns Saudi Arabia; Golden goalies shine brightly

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Updated 10 January 2015

China stuns Saudi Arabia; Golden goalies shine brightly

SYDNEY: Birthday boy Wang Dalei’s penalty stop helped China upset Saudi Arabia 1-0 as a string of top saves made all the difference at the Asian Cup on Saturday.South Korea and Uzbekistan also had their goalkeepers to thank as they both won by the same 1-0 scoreline on a cliff-hanging day two in Australia.

Surprise result of the day belonged to China, who edged three-time winners Saudi Arabia in Brisbane courtesy of Yu Hai’s deflected second half free kick.
Just moments before the goal Wang, who was celebrating his 26th birthday, kept China in it when he dived to his left to save Naif Hazazi’s tame penalty.
Victory put a huge smile on the face of China and coach Alain Perrin’s, who have never won the Asian Cup and will now be eyeing their first appearance in the knockout stages since hosting the tournament in 2004.
“Our tactics worked very well, we hit them on the counter-attack, which caused a lot of trouble to our opponents,” Perrin told reporters. “The match was very, very difficult for us but we gained a lot of joy from it. We’ve been preparing for this tournament for a long time.”
South Korea, World Cup semifinalists in 2002 but seeking a first Asian title in 55 years, got off to an unconvincing start as they beat Oman 1-0 through Cho Young-Cheol’s strike in stoppage time at the end of the first half in Canberra.
English-based goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi produced some quality saves but had a moment to forget as he parried a rebound to Cho, who gobbled up the chance with a clinical finish.
But Korean shot-stopper Kim Jin-Hyeon later superbly tipped Imad Al Hosni’s header onto the bar to ensure the Taeguk Warriors came away with all three points.
Oman coach Paul Le Guen was left fuming at referee Peter O’Leary’s decision to wave away a penalty appeal when Qasim Saeed looked to have been brought down in the box.
“I don’t want to have an advantage — no, no. I ask for equity,” stormed the Frenchman. “It’s a 100 percent penalty, no hesitation. But (we didn’t get it) because of what? Because we are Oman? It’s a very, very bad decision at this level.”
Uzbekistan also relied heavily on goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov as they ground out a 1-0 win over unfancied North Korea in torrential rain.
Nesterov saw little action in the Group B tie but he was alert enough to acrobatically palm away Pak Kwang-Ryong’s powerful header just before the final whistle.
Man-of-the-Match Igor Sergeev’s 62nd-minute header was the only score of a game hit by a mid-match downpour, but Uzbekistan deserved their win in Sydney.
Twice Asian player of the year Server Djeparov set up the goal as the 2011 semifinalists showed they could be ready for another assault on the Asian Cup’s latter stages.
“I’d like to thank our goalkeeper, it was a great save,” said Uzbek coach Mirdjalal Kasimov. “But it was a victory of the whole team, I’m happy with all my players.”
The Asian Cup features 32 matches and concludes in Sydney on Jan. 31.

Today’s matches

UAE vs Qatar (10.00 A.M. KSA time)

Iran vs Bahrain (12 ‘noon, KSA)

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.

BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.

UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE

The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.

BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.