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Milestone man Bahbri focused on road ahead

Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Hatan Bahbri - Saudi Arabia - AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019

Dubai: Hatan Bahbri got Saudi Arabia's AFC Asian Cup campaign off to a stunning start, but despite scoring the national team's 1000th goal and helping his side to a 4-0 win over DPR Korea, he remains focused on the challenges which still lay ahead.

The Al Shabab livewire got Juan Antonio Pizzi's side up and running with a strike that was worthy of the milestone, tricking his way past Ri Il-jin before curling in a magnificent effort which DPR Korea goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk could only stand and watch as it crashed into the back of the net.

The 28th-minute goal was also Bahbri's first at senior international level, and set the tone for a performance which delivered Saudi Arabia's first winning start to the AFC Asian Cup since they last won the title, also in the UAE, in 1996.

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But despite his role in what was a night to remember, the 26-year-old declared he was focused only on repeating the trick against Lebanon on Saturday.

"It's an Important three points for us," he said. "I am grateful and honoured to have got my first international goal which was the 1000th goal in Saudi Arabia’s history.

"We passed the first test, but have an important match ahead against Lebanon. Lebanon are a strong side and we respect them, but we want to get all three points.

"We will forget this match and focus on giving our best in the second match."

Group E Matchday 1: Saudi Arabia vs DPR Korea

Bahbri's moment of magic was followed by a second goal from defender Mohamed Al Fatil and later strikes from Salem Al Dawsari and Fahad Al Muwallad as the three-time champions put DPR Korea to the sword following Han Kwang-song's first half sending off.

The West Asians were enthusiastically backed by a healthy pro-Saudi crowd at Rashid Stadium, and Bahbri directly called on his side's fans to continue in the same manner throughout the tournament.

"We need your support, we need your support, we need your support!" he urged.

"Thank you to all the fans who showed up today and we promise to do them proud in the upcoming matches."

Saudi Arabia will remain in Dubai where they will meet Lebanon at Al Maktoum Stadium, before relocating to Abu Dhabi for a blockbuster final group stage match against Qatar.

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