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.
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.