Riyadh: The return of fans was the main story as Saudi Arabia cruised to a 5-0 victory over Palestine to move top of Group D of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Tuesday.
After a dominant start to the game, Saudi Arabia got their first chance of the game after 13 minutes as Saleh Al Shehri exchanged passes with Fahad Al Muwallad and fired an effort from the edge of the area that sailed high and wide off the Palestinian goal.
Palestine came closest to opening the scoring 10 minutes before the break as Mahmoud Abu Warda tested goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais with a curled cross-cum-shot from the right wing which deceived the Saudi goalkeeper allowing Saleh Chihadeh to strike on the rebound, but Al Owais was able to recover and save the second ball.
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It was the home side who broke the deadlock in the 38th minute. Left-back Yasser Al Shahrani capitalised on a mistake from goalkeeper Toufic Ali who spilled his attempt to catch Al Muwallad’s cross from the right flank, and Al Shahrani was perfectly positioned to head into the empty net from close range.
Al Muwallad turned from creator to scorer two minutes from the break. The winger got on the end of a backheeled Al Shehri pass inside the box, and after seeing his initial effort parried by the goalkeeper, he followed through at the near post firing into the roof of the net.
The hosts made it 3-0 just six minutes after the restart following a fine run from right-back Sultan Al Ghannam, who dribbled past three players before feeding Al Shehri with a sublime through pass. The striker kept his composure and applied the finish into the bottom corner.
Al Shehri doubled his tally soon after as a quick passing move involving Mohammad Kanno and Al Muwallad saw the latter set up Salem Al Dawsari, who found Al Shehri leaving him with a simple finish past the Palestinian goalkeeper to make it three international goals in just his fourth senior cap.
Saudi skipper Al Dawsari rounded off the scoring from the spot three minutes before the end. Defender Ahmed Qatmish handled the ball inside the box prompting the referee to award a penalty kick that was duly converted by the winger to make it 5-0.
The result means Saudi Arabia topple Uzbekistan off the top of Group D, moving two points clear, while Palestine remain bottom of the group with four points from six games. The group fixtures resume in June with Saudi Arabia hosting the remaining matches in a centralised format.
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