Jordan eliminate Saudi Arabia from Cup




Jordan eliminated three-times champions Saudi Arabia from the Asian Cup on Thursday with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a goalkeeping howler by Waleed Abdullah.

It has been a traumatic few days for Saudi Arabia, whose quest for a first Asian Cup since 1996 got off to a disastrous start when they were beaten 2-1 by outsiders Syria in their opening game on Sunday.

Portuguese Jose Peseiro, who had already been under severe pressure for failing to get Saudi Arabia to the World Cup, was promptly sacked as coach and replaced by Nasser Al Johar.Johar inherited a similar situation in 2000 before guiding the Saudis to the final, where they lost to Japan, but there would be no repeat this time.

The regional giants become the first team to be eliminated from the tournament, while surprise-package Jordan are left sitting pretty in second place atop Group B with four points, trailing Japan (4) on goal differentials, with one more game to go.

The Saudis made four changes from the side that embarrassingly lost to Syria, including bringing in midfielder Taiseer Al Jassam, who came off the bench to grab his team’s solitary goal in the Syria debacle.

Jordan, who came within moments of defeating Japan in their opener but had to settle for a 1-1 draw, were missing captain and central defender Hatem Aqel, who was stretchered off after injuring his right knee against the Japanese.

Saudi Arabia should have been ahead within a minute of the post-Peseiro era, but defender Osama Al Harbi completely missed his header right in front of goal when an inswinging corner somehow made it through a packed penalty box.

The Saudis were in control early on at the Al Rayyan Stadium, cheered on by a sizeable travelling support decked out in green.Striker Naif Hazazi, one of the four new players drafted in, was at the centre of everything.

On 16 minutes his goal-bound header was clawed away by Jordan keeper Amer Shafi, and moments later the bouffant-haired Hazazi blazed just wide.Hazazi went within inches of poking the ball in on the half hour, as the Green Falcons, as the Saudi team are known, continued to dominate.

But three minutes before half-time Jordan got the goal against the run of play. Baha Abdelrahman was left unchallenged and given all the time in the world to loft over a cross that inadvertently curled into the net.

It was a moment of horror for keeper Waleed, who totally misjudged the flight of the ball.Jordan nearly got a second on the stroke of half-time, but the keeper went a small way towards making up for his catastrophic blunder by blocking with his legs from Odai Al Saify after the Saudi defence went awol.

It was more Saudi pressure in the second period, but no matter how much they huffed and puffed, they could not break through Jordan’s stubborn rearguard.Saudi substitute Nassir Alshamrani was denied by goalkeeper Shafi after a fine run as the clock ticked down, but Jordan held on.

AFP
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