LONDON: Saudi Arabia coach Daniel Teglio described himself as “emotional” after watching his young side stage a thrilling comeback against Jordan in their opening AFC U-23 Championship game in Changshu.
The young Green Falcons looked dead and buried with 12 minutes to go when Baha Faisal scored his second of the match, but Abdulelah Alamri scored on 85 minutes and then substitute Rakan Al-Anaze scored a nerveless penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time to rescue a point for the Saudis.
“It was a very emotional game and good to watch, with the two teams trying throughout the game to be offensive and to win,” Teglio said. “I think it was a little harsh on us that they led 2-0 until so late in the game, but I liked that the players played for the whole game to try to get the draw. We controlled the game very well and we were able to get a result that was fair to us.”
Iain Brunskill, the Jordan head coach, couldn’t believe his side threw away a two-goal lead.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with the final result,” he said. “We were 2-0 in the lead, but we were slightly fortunate on the balance of the game. But when you’re leading by two goals with 10 minutes to go, it feels like a defeat. On another day we could have converted some chances toward the end but it was a little bit hurried. We’re disappointed. We know we can play a lot better so that’s something positive for the next game.”
Group C had kicked off earlier with Iraq beating Malaysia by a convincing 4-1 scoreline and the opening goal in this one came after just 12 minutes. Saudi captain Ali Al-Lajami lost control of the ball and allowed his counterpart Faisal a run on goal. He showed the defense a clean par of heels before firing the ball into the bottom right hand corner. It was the dream start for Jordan.
The closest the Saudis came was on 38 minutes from a long cross ball from Osama Al-Khalaf to the left that found team-mate Sami Al-Najei. The diminutive playmaker controlled the high ball and took a snap shot at goal, but the Jordanian keeper Rafat Al-Rabie was brave, receiving a blow to his face from the Saudi midfielder’s boot, resulting in a nosebleed. He bravely soldiered on.
Saudi Arabia saw much of the ball in the first half, enjoying 72 percent of the possession, however they had been unable to get main striker Abdulaziz Al-Aryani into the game and found attackers Fahad bin Jumayah and Abdullah Al-Joui closely marked by a strong Jordanian defensive line.
In the second half, the Saudis came out moving the ball quicker as they searched for an equalizer, with the elusive Najei seeing more of the ball and both full backs getting down the wings at every opportunity. And four minutes into the half, Al-Joui’s run and subsequent foul from Mahmoud Shawkat earned the Jordanian midfielder the first caution of the game in the 53 minute. From the resulting free-kick, Al-Lajami could only head straight at the keeper. Then the Saudis had four attempts on goal in as many minutes, with one goal-bound effort from the increasingly dynamic Fahad bin Jumayah cleared off the line by a Jordanian defender.
The Saudis continued to pass the ball around, but were unable to open up a resilient and compact Jordanian defense, who were being urged on by their vocal English coach who was screaming out their names and instructing them when and where to move and press their opponents.
With 12 minutes left on the clock, the Jordanians and everyone at the stadium thought they had grabbed the winner when Faisal rifled in from the edge of the box. The right footed shot from 25 yards flew into the bottom left corner with the Saudi keeper beaten all ends up.
With nothing to lose, Saudi’s Argentina coach Teglia immediately sent on an extra striker in Al-Anaze for full back Mohammed Al-Baqawi. The attacking move worked a treat as just three minutes later, center back Alamri got a goal back, rising high to head in Najei’s left wing cross.
Now with the bit between their teeth, Teglia made one last throw of the dice by throwing on Jaberi Asiri — and it was the substitute striker who got in behind the Jordanian defense, rounded the keeper only to be hauled down. The Japanese referee had no hesistation in pointing to the spot and Al-Anaze made no mistake, sending the keeper the wrong way and slotting the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. It was a dramatic way to kick off their tournament. They now play Iraq in their next Group C game on Saturday.
Abdullah Al-Khaibri, in the middle of the park, was the Greens’ standout player. In a three man midfield, the 21-year old Al-Shabab player always made himself free to team-mates at every opportunity and kept the ball flowing.
Saudi Arabia: 1 Amin Al-Bukhari; 12 Mohammed Al-Baqawi (7 Rakan Al-Anaze 79’), 5 Abdulelah Alamri, 23 Ali Al-Lajami [c], 13 Hamdan Al-Shamrani; 17 Abdullah Al-Khaibari (18 Jaber Asiri 87’), 6 Sami Al-Najei, 8 Osama Al-Khalaf, 10 Fahad bin Jumayah, 11 Abdullah Al-Joui, 20 Abdulaziz Al-Aryani.
Jordan: 1 Rafat Al-Rabie; 3 Mustafa Kamal, 5 Yazan Al-Arab, 21 Ward Al-Barri. 15 Saed Al-Rosan, 14 Mahmoud Shawkat (17 Khalid Al-Dardour 86’), 8 Noor Rawabdeh (6 Ibrahim Al-Khob 63’), 7 Ahmed Al-Reyahi (19 Anas Hammad 68’), 9 Baha Faisal Abu Seif [c], 10 Mousa Al-Taamari.
Referee: Lida Jumpei (Japan)
Linesmen: Ryuji Sato (Japan) & Mohammed Abdulla Hassan (UAE)
Fourth Official: Toru Sagara (Japan)