Renard: It was a tough match for Saudi Arabia
Riffa: Head coach Herve Renard was a relieved man after Saudi Arabia played to a 2-2 draw with Yemen in their opening Asian Qualifiers Group D tie at the Bahrain National Stadium on Tuesday.
Three-time AFC Asian Cup winners Saudi Arabia were the favourites going into the match but had to come from behind twice to salvage a point against a highly-motivated Yemen side in the qualifying tie for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
Yemen, who also drew 2-2 with Singapore on Matchday One, took the lead after eight minutes through Mohsen Qarawi, with Hattan Bahebri drawing Saudi Arabia level. Omar Al Dahi restored Yemen's lead but they were pulled back once again with Salman Al Dawsari's goal giving Renard's side a share of the points.
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“It was a difficult match in the way it went,” said Renard. “We didn’t have a good performance in the first half but we improved in the second period.
“Although we successfully leveled the score, our aim was to get full points from the match,” he said. “We worked very hard last week and we must improve in order to achieve our targets.”
Winning the group will not only seal Saudi Arabia's place in the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 but also take them a step closer to a sixth appearance at the FIFA World Cup Finals, which Renard has targeted.
Goalscorer Bahebri admitted the Saudi players were not satisfied with their performance, saying they were still adapting to Renard's tactics.
“This was our first official match with coach Herve and we are still adapting,” said the 27-year-old forward.
“Everything is possible in football and tonight we were not lucky,” he added. “There is still a long road to go though and we will be working with the coach to improve and make our fans happy.”
Yemen goalscorer Al Dahi said the draw with Saudi Arabia was a “clear message to all teams in the group that we are a good side.”
“We performed against Saudi Arabia and managed to get a good result. We will be fighting until the end to keep our chances alive.”
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