Late winner dumps Syria out of Asian Cup following survival of the fittest battle against Socceroos

Australia’s midfielder Tomas Rogic scores the winner during the AFC Asian Cup group B game against Syria at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain. (AP Photo)
Updated 15 January 2019

Late winner dumps Syria out of Asian Cup following survival of the fittest battle against Socceroos

  • Syria boss left to rue side's lack of stamina as Aussie hit last-minute winner.
  • Result dumped Syria out of the tournament.

AL-AIN: Syria were left to lament that they came off second best in a survival of the fittest battle against the Socceroos.  

That was the opinion of the side’s stand-in coach Fajr Ibrahim who felt that there was not much to separate the two sides in terms of ability, but claimed the Aussies were able to win 3-2 due to their superior fitness levels. 

The defeat dumped Syria out of the Asian Cup at the first hurdle, and Ibrahim, who took charge foolowing Bernd Stange's shock  sacking following their defeat by Jordan, was left to rue his players’ lack of stamina compared to their Australian opponents. 

"Fitness was the critical factor," Ibrahim said.

"There wasn't a big difference apart from the fitness of the Australian team. They were superior.”

Considering the league that the majority of the Socceroos play in compared to the Syrians, the coach was probably right when talkng about the fitness levels of the two sides. In which case he had every right to be proud of his players. They only fell to defeat by virtue of a Tom Rogic's injury-time thunderbolt.

The result meant the Socceroos finished second in Group B behind Jordan, whose simultaneous 0-0 draw with Palestine gave the Palestinians hope of qualifying as one of the best third-placed teams.

Syria, vocally backed by thousands of their fans in Ai-Ain, twice fought back from a goal behind before Rogic slammed home the winner in the third minute of injury time.

Injury-hit Australia, with only six outfield players on the bench, needed just a draw to go through and they got there — but there were twists along the way.

“It was a helter-skelter game at times,” Australia coach Graham Arnold said.

“On another night we could've scored more goals but it was a great learning process for our young players. It was a good performance just in terms of the grit and determination.”

Syria looked an early threat before Australia started to get a grip on the game and Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren flashed a header just wide.

There was drama on the half-hour when a Syrian free-kick bounced through a packed penalty area and into the net, but the goal was ruled out for a foul on Mark Milligan.

But Australia were getting close and Awer Mabil, after seeing one raking shot blocked, unleashed a fabulous effort which curled into the top corner four minutes before half-time.

However, the lead lasted just two minutes as Mouaiad Alajaan's cross picked out birthday boy Omar Khrbin, turning 25 on Tuesday, who saw his header saved by Brighton's Mathew Ryan but then gobbled up the rebound.

On 54 minutes, there was controversy when Chris Ikonomidis's shot was hooked away by Omar Al Midani — but the ball was judged to have crossed the line by the additional assistant referee, who was surrounded by Syrian players.

The incident silenced the massed ranks of Syrian fans but there was uproar around the stadium shortly afterwards when their team vehemently claimed a penalty for a Milligan handball.

Australia looked firmly in control and they could have had a third goal when substitute Apostolos Giannou saw a low shot cannon off the base of the upright.

But Mexican referee Cesar Ramos threw Syria a lifeline when he gave them a penalty after Omar Al Soma went down in the box — and the striker stroked them level once more with 10 minutes to go.

It looked like Syria would escape with a vital point before Celtic's Rogic, playing the tournament with a broken hand, belted Australia's third from distance.

 


Saudi showjumpers ride for places in Tokyo Olympics team

Updated 16 December 2019

Saudi showjumpers ride for places in Tokyo Olympics team

  • International exposure key to Saudi riders’ success: Equestrian federation chief
  •  Visitors enjoyed a fun and exciting atmosphere as riders gave their best performances on the field

RIYADH: Saudi showjumpers at this month’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival aren’t just riding to win — they are battling for places at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, the country’s equestrian chief said on Sunday.

“Saudi riders’ participation in international championships is very important,” said Prince Abdullah bin Fahd bin Abdullah, president of the Saudi Equestrian Federation.

“Coming in contact with international riders will provide them with what they need to achieve their ambitions, which we all know are very big. That is why Saudi riders always have remarkable presence on the international level — hard competitors to beat, like the young rider Waleed Al-Ghamdi, who came second in the first stage of the competition.

“We are waiting for the results of this championship to draft the program for the Tokyo Olympics. We have a good chance at winning but, in this sport one can never be sure until the end of the stage. We will always be sure of the self-confidence our riders have, which will be felt as they represent the Kingdom in any competition,” he added.

Prince Abdullah expressed his happiness at the start of the first stage of the International Show Jumping Championship as part of the Diriyah Equestrian Festival

“The success is due to God, the support the sport has from the wise leadership of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA)," he said

The festival — which concludes next weekend, Dec. 19-21 — is taking place at Al-Duhami Farm, the equestrian arena built by Saudi Olympic legend Ramzy Al-Duhami and his wife Sara Baban.

In addition to showjumping, the attractions include art and photography exhibitions, cultural activities and a range of cafes and restaurants.

Visitors enjoyed a fun and exciting atmosphere as riders gave their best performances on the field, showcasing their skills and talents.

Diriyah has always been a symbol of authenticity and culture, while entertainment came with its international sports activities characterized by their sophistication, strength and diversity.

Mohammed Al-Mudayfar, owner of the artistic incubator “Resin Art” taking part in the activities, said: “The exhibition aims at highlighting the Kingdom’s identity in line with the festival’s. By participating, I seek to revive the Kingdom’s culture and introduce it to the visitors.

'Resin Art' exhibition is part of the activities lined up during the two-week Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (Photo/Supplied)

“The exhibition includes 60 Saudi artworks. They received huge support so they can showcase them in a suitable manner, in line with this year’s fun and exciting activities,” he added, noting: “Featured handicrafts, paintings and sculptures are all up for sale.  

“We provide the necessary space and materials for any artist that wishes to showcase his work. Supporting young Saudis and talented ones in particular is a national duty that society should sense its importance especially when it is related to our heritage and traditions.”

The activities area had a part dedicated to kids that has educational and entertainment activities such as painting horse heads made of cork.

Another exhibition called “Objectives” managed by 24-year-old Lama Al-Thubaiti offered visitors a variety of jewelry and accessories that could be modified according to their requests. Al-Thubaiti works as a doctor for people with hearing disabilities and has been working to develop her brand for five years now.

“We are very happy with the visitors’ reaction and our presence here is remarkable as we get ready to open our headquarters soon,” she said.  

The activities area also featured a wide range of restaurants, Saudi and international cafes, a photography corner and cultural facilities such as Arabian and historic horse exhibition, engraving, henna and local artists.

Diriyah Equestrian Festival is taking place for the second year in a row to bring the international event to the Kingdom, reflect the traditional values of equestrianism according to European standards. The event will run for two weeks, providing participants with the chance to qualify to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the World Championship.