Tashkent: Uzbekistan struck a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with Saudi Arabia in an Asian World Cup Group A qualifier in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia, playing in their traditional green shirts, made the early running against an Uzbekistan side, which had packed their defence with five men. The Saudis created the first noteworthy chance when Yasser Al Qahtani waltzed through a hesitant Uzbek defence and headed towards goal. Timely intervention However, defender Alexy Nikolaev made a timely intervention and cleared the danger with Yasser poised to open the scoring. Uzbekistan responded by hitting the game's first shot on target in the 32nd minute. Star striker Matsim Shatskikh hit a powerful volley on the turn, but his angled drive was parried by Saudi goalkeeper Mabrouk Zaid and the game remained scoreless at half-time. The Saudis were clearly reeling in the cold weather, but their coach Gabriel Calderon made an incisive substitution in the second half. Former captain Sami Al Jaber, recalled by Calderon for the World Cup qualifiers, came on and made an immediate impact. Lofted pass The veteran striker latched on to a lofted pass over the Uzbek defence and calmly flicked the ball over Uzbekistan's advancing goalkeeper Alexy Polyakov to make it 1-0 after 77 minutes. Uzbekistan might have equalised three minutes later. Maksim Shatskikh was left unmarked and rose to meet a measured cross into the penalty area, but Saudi keeper Mubarak Zaid tipped his header over the crossbar. However, Uzbekistan levelled three minutes into injury time to steal a point. A hopeful long ball exposed weaknesses in the Saudi defence and Anvarjon Soliev was allowed to cut into the penalty area before firing the equaliser inside Zaid's near post. That goal handed Uzbekistan a share of the spoils, but they will have to raise their game when they face Kuwait in their next Asian World Cup qualifier. Saudi Arabia's next match will be against South Korea.
Topics : Football