Saudi Arabia seal late win against Uzbekistan in Asian Qualifiers

Saudi Arabia’s Green Falcons celebrate their 3-2 win against Uzbekistan at the Asian Qualifiers in Tashkent on Thursday. (Uzbekistan Football Association, Saudi Arabian Football Federation)
Updated 15 November 2019

Saudi Arabia seal late win against Uzbekistan in Asian Qualifiers

  • Al-Dawsari scores winner as Green Falcons come from behind to claim three points
  • Uzbekistan hope to bounce back when they host Palestine on Tuesday

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan:  Saudi Arabia twice came from a goal down to defeat Uzbekistan 3-2 in Group D of the Asian Qualifiers on Thursday. 

It was a crucial win for the Green Falcons, taking the three-time Asian Cup winners to the top of Group D.

Uzbekistan came into the tie confident, having bounced back from an opening day loss to record back-to-back victories.

The Central Asians applied heavy pressure from the start and were rewarded after just 16 minutes, with Ikromjon Alibaev forcing Saudi defender Yasir Gharsan Al-Shahrani into a poor back pass, which Eldor Shomurodov neatly intercepted and blasted past keeper Mohammed Al-Owais.

Saudi Arabia, with one win and two draws in their previous matches, were not discouraged by the early deficit, though, and they pushed the hosts back in search of an equalizer.


Saudi Arabia, with one win and two draws in their previous matches, were not discouraged by the early deficit, though, and they pushed the hosts back in search of an equalizer.

It came six minutes later when Rustamjon Ashurmatov brought down a surging Feras Tariq Al-Brikan in the box, and referee Ryuji Sato pointed to the penalty spot. Saudi skipper Salman Al-Faraj converted with ease.

Ten minutes into the second half Uzbekistan won a penalty of their own when the hapless Al-Shahrani handled in the area. Shukurov made no mistake from the spot.

Saudi Arabia’s head coach Hervé Renard then sent on Abdulaziz Al-Beshi and Nawaf Al-Abed in the 62nd and 72nd minutes to rejuvenate the Green Falcons’ attack, as the visitors threw bodies forward in search of goals.

The Uzbek defense eventually cracked in the 85th minute as Al-Dawsari’s cross was not properly dealt with by Farrukh Sayfiev, and Al-Faraj volleyed home the loose ball to make it 2-2.

Vadim Abramov’s charges were now under pressure and cracked again just before the 90th minute as Al-Dawsari beat the Uzbekistan defenders and lobbed the ball over Eldorbek Suyunov to complete the comeback.

Uzbekistan hope to bounce back when they host Palestine on Tuesday.


Joshua reveals he’s gone back to school ahead of Ruiz rematch

Updated 06 December 2019

Joshua reveals he’s gone back to school ahead of Ruiz rematch

  • “I really started studying boxing again”: Joshua

RIYADH: Former world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has admitted that he has been hitting the books just as hard as the gym in his six-month buildup to this weekend’s epic Clash On The Dunes bout in Riyadh.

The 30-year-old revealed that, as well as sparring with up to five fighters in a row, he committed to learning as much as he could about the “science of boxing” in his preparations for the rematch following his June defeat to Mexican-American fighter Andy Ruiz.

The pair meet again on Saturday in the jewel in the crown of Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Season — with tickets selling fast in the face of phenomenal demand.

To Joshua, the fight is his chance of redemption following Ruiz’s shock win in New York’s Madison Square Garden, so he has left no stone unturned in his quest to produce the perfect performance under the lights and with the eyes of the world watching.

“After that fight, I knew my mistakes,” he told Arab News. “That’s why I said: ‘You were the better man that day. I give you it. First-ever Mexican champion. Hats off to you.’”

He continued: “I wasn’t low because I know I’m better than that and that I’ve got a lot more I needed to give. I just knew that me and Andy are different in every aspect — the only thing we have in common is time. So I made sure I used my time wisely because I knew I was going to get it right. I knew what I needed to work on. It was more strategic planning.

“Ever since I walked into boxing I’ve been dominating. From the amateurs — bosh, championship. Turned pro — bosh, championship. You never really understand what (you have) until it’s taken (from you).

“Then I had time to think and that’s when I really started studying boxing again. There is no doubt I can fight. I’ve been fighting top-level fighters. I’ve never really had an introduction level. I’ve just been straight on. I’ve now had the time to reflect, get my head right, get my head back in the game, and boost myself again and do what I did 10 years ago: take over this division.”

When asked what his studying entailed, Joshua — who won a gold medal in the heavyweight category at the 2012 London Olympics — explained: “Loads of videos. Sometimes you can put fighters side-by-side — both 6 feet 6 inches, both weighing roughly the same amount — but you can see one is more disciplined with technique than the other, you can then see why they became more successful in their field and you learn about the discipline of following through your tactics. Stuff like that.

“You learn about when you move to the left against an orthodox fighter: Is that a dangerous move or is that a smart move to control a fighter? What does it mean to move to the right? What’s the first art of defensive boxing? It’s your feet — get out the way. You start to indulge yourself in the sweet science. Before I was more, ‘I’ve just come to fight.’ Now I’ve learned about the sweet science of the sport, which is important as well.”

In line with his learning, Joshua has ensured his 3,000-mile trip from London does not impact his training and fight preparation. In the lead-up to June’s defeat, he spent seven weeks away from home in Miami. On this occasion, he has arrived only two weeks prior — allowing him to maintain a “training camp vibe” to his buildup.

He believes he is now in the perfect place ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster bout, admitting he actually finds the actual fight the least nerve-wracking part of the whole experience.

“I just kept a training routine and focused on business: Keep my focus and get the job done,” he said. “I’m not nervous at all. I’m confident. I don’t think I’ve ever been nervous for a fight. I’ve probably been more nervous sparring. I trap myself in a dungeon, so I feel like I’m an experiment in a lab. I then come and present my efforts to you.

“That’s why I feel I’ve got so much pressure on myself, because behind closed doors I work so hard mentally and physically to try and stay at the top. I spar, like, five guys in a row who come to take my head off, and I’ve got to be sharp in every second of that round, which will ultimately (affect) what I do on fight night. Training is the hardest part, I think. That’s why I’m never nervous about a fight, because I put so much work in in the gym.”

Ruiz’s win over Joshua in June sent reverberations across all divisions of the sport, with many considering it one of boxing’s biggest ever upsets. So, could lightning strike twice?

“I think it’s kind of like an exam, isn’t it?” said Joshua. “You go through it once, you fail. Most people fail their first driving test, then they go again and prepare better, so I think I’m better prepared if I’m honest with you. You will definitely see the energy in the fight a bit different this time.”

Asked what the outcome would be if he were to suffer a second defeat to Ruiz in seven months, Joshua said: “Definitely catastrophic. But I’m not even thinking about losing. It’ll be big business when I win. I just got to keep focusing on the win.”

He added, “Everyone fails their first driving test. I think I got mine the second time.”