RIYADH: Saudi Arabia were left to rue a lack of concentration and discipline as they let a two-goal lead slip against Bolivia in Riyadh.
Goals from Yehya Al-Shehri and Saudi star Salem Al-Dawsari from the penalty spot were not enough to beat the South Americans at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, who battled back with goals from Jhasmani Campos and a late penalty from Marcelo Martins.
Unlike Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side, Bolivia did not play at this summer's World Cup. But their FIFA ranking of 59th, compared to Saudi Arabia’s 70th, illustrated that the hosts knew they had a tough challenge on their hands.
From the start at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium Saudi Arabia looked busy and played with purpose, getting a 2-0 lead after just 11 minutes. But Campos’ goal came 10 minutes before the break, and once Pizzi made five changes to his starting line-up, Bolivia came back into the game.
With eight minutes left on the clock, Martins scored to equalize and both teams had to be content with a draw.
The Green Falcons came into the friendly on the back of an up-and-down World Cup. Having been thrashed 5-0 in the tournament opener against hosts Russia, they then narrowly lost 1-0 to Uruguay before ending on a high with a 2-1 victory against Arab rivals Egypt.
That was enough to convince the Saudi Arabian Football Federation that Juan Antonio Pizzi, appointed late last year, was the right man to lead the side into next January’s Asian Cup in the UAE.
It was also enough for the side to come into the friendly against the South Americans confident they could carry on the form shown in the last two clashes at the World Cup and set up a successful end to the year and subsequent springboard into the Asian Cup.
The World Cup campaign had illustrated the side’s strengths, while at the same time highlighted its glaring weaknesses — solid in defense (bar the opening shocker against Russia), but all too shy in front of goal. For all their possession they failed to create much and when they did were too profligate, much like the second half against Bolivia.
But a win and a draw from the past two matches at least indicates the side are on the right path and gives them something to build on heading into the Asian Cup in five months' time.