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Dammam: A stoppage-time strike by Mohammed Al Sahlawi helped Saudi Arabia beat Palestine 3-2 in their 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifying campaign at the Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd Stadium on Thursday.

The Saudis led 1-0 at the break and the exciting moments came late in the second half with each side scoring a goal apiece in stoppage time but Al Sahlawi’s proved to be the decisive one to help the hosts clinch three points from their first qualifying game.

Saudi midfielder Yahia Al Shehri opened the scoring on six minutes before the game went into the break and Al Sahlawi duly doubled the lead two minutes after the restart.

Palestine striker Pablo Bravo reduced the deficit three minutes later before his replacement Matias Hadwa found the equaliser two minutes into stoppage time.

But Lebanon’s joy was short-lived as Al Sahlawi regained the lead a minute later.

The teams in Round 2 will compete according to a double round robin format, and the qualification matches will be held from June 11, 2015 to March 29, 2016.

The group winners and four best runners-up (total 12 teams) will advance to the 2019 Asian Cup finals and the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

The next best 24 teams from the preliminary stage of the joint qualifiers will compete in a separate competition for the remaining slots (12 slots or 11 slots + 1 slot for the host) in the 24-team 2019 Asian Cup finals.

Photo: AFP