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Qualifiers - Group D: Saudi Arabia, UAE turn on the power

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Riyadh: West Asian giants Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are set for a Matchday Three showdown to decide who takes the direct AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 qualification place on offer in Group D, after both recorded wins on Sunday.


UAE made it two wins from two on the road to Thailand 2020, securing a straightforward 3-0 success over Maldives.

Under the tutelage of Polish head coach Maciej Skorza, the Emiratis have now racked up nine goals in their two Group E wins, setting up a decisive encounter with group hosts Saudi Arabia on the third and final Matchday on Tuesday.

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Following on from their 6-1 defeat of Lebanon 48 hours earlier, UAE took the lead through Al Wahda forward Mohammad Al Hammadi in the 29th minute.

Petar Segrt's Maldives side were able to keep the highly-fancied UAE at bay until half-time, but they conceded just four minutes into the second half, with Zayed Al Ameri - fresh from a hat-trick against Lebanon - finding the net shortly after being introduced as a substitute.

Any chance of an unlikely revival was extinguished once and for all when Mohamed Ali added a third goal in the 76th minute, as the West Asian powerhouse secured a comprehensive win.

While UAE still have it all to play for on Tuesday, Maldivian hopes of a place in the Finals are now dashed after two heavy losses in their opening two matches.


A goal in each half helped Saudi Arabia to a second win in as many matches, and confirmed Lebanon's elimination from the qualification race, in Sunday's later match.

Abdulrahman Al Yami and Saad Al Saluli scored the goals for the hosts, but Hassan Al Qayd was arguably the star of the show, providing both assists to cap a fine night down the right flank.

Lebanon had started strongly before falling to a 6-1 loss to UAE on Thursday, but this time they conceded first, with Al Qayd finishing a surging run with a curling cross of such accuracy that the diminutive Al Yami was able to calmly steer a free header into the back of the net at the half-hour mark.

The visitors were more resilient than in their heavy defeat two days prior, but they struggled to make attacking headway of their own, and it took a smart save from Hadi Mortada to prevent Al Qayd from scoring a goal of his own in the second half.

With time running out for Lebanon, Al Saluli added the final goal in the final minute, intelligently getting onto the end of Al Qayd's deflected cross, then delightfully lifting the ball over Mortada and into the net to seal all three points in the fourth minute of added time.

Saudi Arabia's campaign is on track, but their inferior goal difference means they will need to beat UAE on Tuesday to top the group, with a draw or defeat meaning Saad Al Shehri's side will need to be among the five best runners-up if they are to feature in Thailand next January.

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