Saudi Arabia twice came from a goal to defeat Uzbekistan 3-2 in Group D of the Asian Qualifiers on Thursday. It was a crucial win for Saudi Arabia, who went into the tie trailing Uzbekistan in the standings, as the three-time Asian Cup winners moved 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 wins, and they were keen on repeating that success in front of their home crowd.
The Central Asians applied heavy pressure and were rewarded after just 16 minutes, with Ikromjon Alibaev forcing Saudi defender Yasir Gharsan Alshahrani into making a poor back pass, which Eldor Shomurodov neatly intercepted and blasted past ‘keeper Mohammed Alowais.
Saudi Arabia, with one win and two draws in their previous matches, were not discouraged by the early deficit as they pushed the hosts back in search of the equaliser.
The visitors had that chance six minutes later, when Rustamjon Ashurmatov brought down a surging Feras Tariq Albrikan in the box, and referee Ryuji Sato did not hesitate in pointing to the penalty spot, which Saudi skipper Salman Al Faraj neatly converted.
Uzbekistan were once again on the prowl in the second half and 10 minutes in, were awarded a penalty when Alshahrani was fouled for handling the ball and Shukurov made no mistake with the spot kick.
Head coach Herve Renard then sent on Abdulaziz Al Beshi and Nawaf Al Abed in the 62nd and 72nd minutes to rejuvenate Saudi Arabia’s attack and they threw bodies forward in search of goals.
The Uzbek defence eventually cracked in the 85th minute as Salem Al Dawsari’s cross was not properly dealt with by Farrukh Sayfiev, and Saudi captain 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 mark as Al Dawsari beat the Uzbekistan defenders and lobbed the ball over ‘keeper Eldorbek Suyunov to complete the comeback win.
Uzbekistan will hope to bounce back when they host Palestine on Tuesday while Saudi Arabia will not be in action on Matchday Six.