Saudi and Thailand happy with stalemate as second strings see out group

January 25 – Saudi Arabia were held by Thailand as the two sides closed out the Asian Cup group stages with a 0-0 draw at the Education City Stadium.

Neither team entered the match under tournament pressure as both were already qualified for the next round.

Despite their safety in second place, Thailand’s reserves still looked to develop on their impressive tournament performance and usurp the Saudis in a last-minute grab for top spot in the group.

Thailand’s lineup underwent a complete change from their match versus Oman on Sunday, featuring 11 new starting faces as the team looked to protect their starters from injuries going into the round of 16.

Thai youngster Teerasak Poeiphimai, 21, assumed the role of centre forward despite having never scored for his country at senior level. Replacing fan-favourite Supachai Jaided, the striker had big shoes to fill.

Defensive rock Ali Al-Boleahi and the talented Salem Al-Dawsari were the only players to survive Roberto Mancini’s purge of the team that faced Kyrgyzstan on Sunday. Both teams opted for a similar approach to save their legs of the first team for tougher trials ahead.

Thailand had history against them, having never beaten Saudi Arabia in their four previous meetings. With the Saudis only having conceded one goal since October, Thailand’s young debutants had a stern test ahead.

Masatada Ishii’s side lined up with a back four protected by two defensive midfielders that allowed the front four to be creative going forward. As seen against Oman, the tactic relies heavily on the ability of the attacking group to create amongst themselves and works well against disorganised defences.

Similarly, Roberto Mancini stuck with his favoured 3-5-2 formation, this time employing star man Al-Dawsari in the heart of midfield instead of in attack. The formation allows for Mancini to make the most out of his players’ athleticism in the middle of the park, which worked effectively at shutting down attacks by quickly latching on to loose balls in midfield and behind the defensive line.

Despite the rotated teams, it didn’t take long for the match to pick up pace as Thailand’s Anuin made a crucial 1v1 save to deny Al Dawsari an early opener in the eighth minute. Undoing his keeper’s hard work, Thai defender Thongsong made a clumsy challenge in the cleanup to send Ghareeb to the floor, stirring the quieting Saudi crowd into frenzy.

Al Dawsari surrendered the chance to take the subsequent penalty, gifting the chance to 21-year-old Abdullah Hadi Radif. Continuing his heroism between the sticks, Anuin saved the shot with his feet to keep the score line level.

Thailand’s Poeiphimai headed the ball home minutes later, but the opener was quickly ruled out by VAR for offside. Literally 15 seconds after the decision was made, Saudi’s Abdullah Radif thought he had put his team in a deserved lead only to meet the same fate from the offside flag.

Armed with an atmosphere that may as well have been in Riyadh, the Saudis controlled the pace of the first half to suit their creative build-up ability and restrict Thailand’s counter-attacking threat. Thailand’s forwards rarely crossed the halfway except to latch onto an optimistic through ball.

Against the run of play, Thai midfielder Kanitsribampen scored another header in the 34th minute that was instantly ruled out for offside. Despite being ruled out, the goal showed the Saudi defence that they can make chances, especially on the break.

Going into half time with both teams unlucky not to score, Thailand needed to find a way to keep a lid on Sargourq, as the wing back continued to threaten with runs in behind.

The second half continued in the same style as the first: Saudi striker Ghareeb scored a breakaway goal in the 56th minute but it was ruled out for being a fraction offside.

With the game’s intensity beginning to fizzle out, Saudi Arabia again came close to opening the scoring in the 71st minute after a clever Al Dawsari shot was claimed by Anuin, who has surely played his way into the starting team for the Round of 16 after an inspired performance.

As the game reached its conclusion, Saudi’s ever-confident attacking force continued to test Anuin, who was a force of nature in between the sticks to keep the game level. He made an impressive seven crucial saves during the match, including Radif’s early penalty.

As winners of Group F, Saudi face a cruel reward following the theatrics in South Korea versus Malaysia, which saw Klinsmann’s side surrender their lead in the last breath of the game. This means that Saudi Arabia’s next test will be a stern one. Mancini’s men will have to overcome world-class talent in Heung Min Son and Kim Min Jae,

After finishing in second, Thailand face a tough match against Uzbekistan who were unbeaten in Group B.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1711665820labto1711665820ofdlr1711665820owedi1711665820sni@g1711665820niwe.1711665820yrrah1711665820



Hong Kong002070
Saudi Arabia210417
Krygz Rep012151