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Saudi Arabia crushes Thailand to top group in World Cup qualifier

© Provided by The Rahnuma Daily

Author: AFPThu, 2017-03-23ID: 1490284895812031600
BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia slapped Thailand down in a crushing 3-0 victory at a World Cup qualifier on Thursday, with two strikes sandwiching a devastating own-goal from the War Elephants on their home turf.
The win cements Saudi Arabia’s leading spot in Group B and propels the team one step closer to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
It also ended Thailand’s hope of exacting revenge over the hotly-contested penalty kick that handed the Saudis a 1-0 win in the final minutes of a match in Riyadh last September. But passionate roars from Bangkok’s fan-packed Rajamangala stadium on Thursday were not enough to propel the players to victory.
Saudi Arabia’s sharpshooter Mohammed Al-Sahlawi put his team on top early on when he took a pass from Nawaf Al-Abid down on his chest and struck the ball into the net in the 25th minute.
Thailand held up an admirable defense throughout most of the match and looked dangerous a number of times.
But the team was unable to deliver a goal and morale plummeted after Tanaboon Kesarat accidentally turned the ball into his own net in the 84th minute as he tried to block a cross.
The brutal defeat was sealed in an action-packed finale as Taisir Al-Jassim set Salman Almuwashar up for for killer strike in injury time in the 92nd minute.
Thailand remains at the bottom of the table after losing every match in the qualifying round save for a 2-2 draw with Australia in November.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Yaseen’s second half equalizer earned Iraq a 1-1 draw with Australia in Tehran and left the Socceroos with work to do to reach next year’s World Cup.
Matthew Leckie scored five minutes before half time but Yaseen’s finish on 76 minutes condemned Australia to a fourth draw in six games in the final group stage of qualifying.
Australia, now with 10 points, began the day third in Group B behind Saudi Arabia and Japan, and level on points with UAE.
With only the top two teams gaining an automatic spot to Russia 2018, Australia’s home game against UAE on Tuesday now takes on added significance.
At a rain-soaked PAS Stadium in the Iranian capital, the Socceroos lived on their wits in the opening half-hour with Amjad Kalaf spurning a hatful of close-range chances and goalkeeper Mitch Langerak repeatedly stretched.
Australia slowly took a grip on proceedings and on 40 minutes Aaron Mooy’s corner from the left picked out the unmarked Leckie, who firmly headed home at the near post.
But with 14 minutes remaining, Ali Adnan’s perfect cross was met by Yaseen, who gobbled up the opportunity to level the scores at 1-1.
Tim Cahill had a shot cleared off the line in the dying minutes before Ange Postecoglou’s men were forced to settle for a point against the determined Iraqis.
In Changsha, China, Yu Dabao struck in the first half as Marcello Lippi’s China stunned South Korea 1-0 to keep their slim World Cup hopes alive on Thursday.
The Beijing Guoan forward’s header ensured China’s first win of in the final qualifying group — and only their second victory over the Koreans in 32 attempts.
The victory sent a packed Helong Stadium into raptures as China, who were bottom and winless after five games in Group A, gave themselves a glimmer of hope of reaching Russia 2018.
The game was played against the backdrop of high political tensions following Chinese anger over South Korea’s deployment of a controversial missile defense system.
In front of a partisan crowd and a heavy security presence, South Korea were on top early on but they had a warning when Yu forced a smart save from Kwoun Sun-Tae near the half-hour.
And Yu broke through on 34 minutes when he nodded China ahead from a corner — ending a 407-minute goal drought stretching back to their 3-2 defeat to the Koreans in September.
South Korea nearly hit back quickly and Ji Dong-Won twice brushed the top of the netting before China made it to the break with a shock 1-0 lead.
South Korea threw on giant forward Kim Shin-Wook for the second half and as they poured forward in search of an equalizer, the game opened up with chances for both sides.
Korean captain Ki Sung-Yueng let fly with a rocket of a shot on 65 minutes, and Chinese substitute Wu Xi had a curling effort saved at the other end.
On 75 minutes, China’s Zeng Cheng saved brilliantly from Ji’s close-range header, and Hong Jeong-Ho saw another attempt cleared off the line as China defended stoutly.
Main category: Sports

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