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Qualifiers - Group D: Joy for UAE, Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Riyadh: United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia shared the spoils, as well as the relief of securing a place in the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 Finals after a 1-1 draw, while Lebanon signed off their Group D campaign with a win on Tuesday

UAE emerged as group winners, and sealed direct qualification to Thailand 2020, after a dramatic finale between two of West Asia's football heavyweights ended 1-1.

Goals to UAE's Zayed Al Ameri and Saudi Arabia's Saad Al Sululi meant the sides couldn't be separated on the night, with UAE's superior goal difference confirming their status as table-toppers.

While Saudi Arabia were unable to claim the win they needed to top the group, they did enough to secure the 16th and final place in the Finals, scraping in as the fourth-best runners-up ahead of Tajikistan.

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While both sides came into the match with two wins from two, each knew a defeat at Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium would guarantee their elimination from the qualification race.

What followed was a tense opening 45 minutes of few opportunities, with Majid Al Meherzi's long range free-kick the only thing resembling a close call in front of goal at the either end.

The opening stages of the second half were far more lively, with UAE's Al Ameri latching onto a long ball from goalkeeper Mohamed Al Shamshi, before tuning a defender and wrong-footing Mohammed Al Yami in the 51st minute for his fifth goal in just three qualification matches.

Now on the brink of elimination, Saad Al Shehri's side eagerly chased an equaliser, and they should have found one when Abdullah Tarmin set up Abdulrahman Gahreeb, who blasted his effort over the bar from straight in front of goal.

With pressure building, Saudi Arabia pulled off their escape when Al Sululi lunged to steer home Tarmin's header and level the tie in the 64th minute, and they could have claimed the win had Al Sululi not taken a heavy touch when through on goal in the dying stages.

While neither side was able to find a decisive goal on the night, they both did enough to survive the perils of qualification, and secure safe passage to the Finals in Thailand.


Lebanon salvaged some pride from their ill-fated AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 qualification bid, surging to an emphatic 6-0 win over Maldives at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium on Tuesday.

The Cedars shrugged off back to back losses to go on a scoring spree in their final fixture, finding the net twice in the first half, and four more times in the second, as six separate players beat Maldivian goalkeeper Huassin Sahreef.

Lebanon's blitz began with a goal to captain Mohamad Kdouh in the 24th minute, before Karim Darwich added a second just two minutes later to have the West Asian side well clear at half-time.

The gap became a chasm after the break, as Milic Curcic's side ran riot with four goals in a dazzling 23-minute spell.

Hassan Mehanna scored the third goal in the 59th minute, followed by another from Hussein Monzer three minutes later, before Youssef Al Haj made it 5-0 at the 75th-minute mark.

Substitute Alex Boutros applied the finishing touch to the rout with a sixth goal eight minutes from time, as Lebanon signed their campaign off on a positive note.

Photo: Saudi Arabian Football Federation

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