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Group B - MD2: Saudi Arabia 0-0 Qatar

Bangkok:  Saudi Arabia drew 0-0 with Qatar in Group B of the AFC U23 Championship on Sunday to leave both sides firmly in contention to reach the competition’s quarter-finals.

With one game each still to play, the result sees Saudi Arabia move to four points following their impressive defeat of Japan on Matchday One, with Qatar – in the wake of their draw with Syria – two points adrift of their regional rivals.

Saudi Arabia complete their group stage fixtures on Wednesday when they face Syria, while Qatar will tackle Japan on the same day.

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On a warm and humid evening in the Thai capital, Saudi Arabia were boosted by the inclusion of striker Abdullah Al Hamdan who was named in his country’s starting 11 after recovering from an ankle injury picked up against Japan.

Following a cautious start at the Thammasat Stadium, there were tackles aplenty as both sides refused to give an inch, an approach that resulted in a tight and tense affair that was dominated by pockets of action in midfield.

The game finally burst into life on 39 minutes when Abdulrahman Ghareeb’s ferocious drive from 18 yards was superbly blocked by defender Qatar Mohamed Ayash.

By way of contrast to what had gone before, the second half began brightly with first Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Dubaysh unleashing a shot that fizzed narrowly wide of the target and then Al Hamdan having a close-range header repelled by goalkeeper Mohammed Al Yami.

Saudi Arabia continued to press their opponents, and it was to be they who would spurn the encounter’s best opportunity, Abdulelah Alamri failing to beat Al Yami from a tight angle in the 67th minute.

Two minutes later, Abdullah Al Ahrak flashed a shot across the face of the Saudi goal, before Al Hamdan lifted an effort over the bar when well placed.

With defences dominating, neither side was able to fashion a further opportunity, with Saudi Arabia finishing the match arguably the happier of the two come the full-time whistle.

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