DOHA - Two deflected strikes from
midfielder Abdulrazak Al Husein handed Syria a surprise 2-1 win
over Gulf giants Saudi Arabia in their Asian Cup Group B opener
in Qatar on Sunday.
The Syrians, competing at the 16-team finals for the first
time in 15 years, fully deserved the victory with players and
substitutes sprinting over to their delighted supporters at the
Al Rayyan Stadium to celebrate and pray.
The win was their first over the Saudis since 1976 and only
their second in 24 attempts.
Syria, ranked 107th by FIFA and 26 places below their
opponents, defended tightly and caused the three-times Asian
champions numerous problems down the flanks with striker Mohamad
Al Zino looking dangerous throughout.
"This is a battle and we have not yet won the war. The
difficult part is just starting," said Tita Valeriu, who last
month was appointed the team's fourth coach in a year.
Roared on by passionate support, the Syrians took the lead
seven minutes before halftime when Al Husein prodded a
half-volley from the edge of the area towards goal.
The shot was then diverted past Saudi goalkeeper Waleed
Abdullah by his full-back Abdullah Shuhail's slight headed touch.
The Saudis improved after the break and drew level in the
59th minute when substitute Taiseer Al Jassam leapt into the
penalty area to head Mosab Balhous's punched clearance from a
corner back past the Syrian goalkeeper.
The equaliser momentarily silenced the Syrian supporters,
who made up most of the 15,768 crowd at the 22,000 all-seater
They were back cheering again just four minutes later,
however, when Al Husein's right footed shot from just inside the
area took a wicked deflection past Abdullah to restore the
"I like very much the fans and spectators, they were like
the 12th player in the game," Valeriu told reporters.
The Syrians survived some nervy moments in the last 10
minutes as they sunk deeper into their half with substitute Naif
Hazazi going very close with a header in the final minute.
The defeat left Saudi Arabia's Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro
under more pressure after he was criticised for their failure to
qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1990 last
year, despite joining midway through the qualifying campaign.
"We lost the first game but I believe we can win other
games. Spain lost the first game in the (2010) World Cup and won
the World Cup," said Peseiro.
The result came after three-times Asian champions Japan
grabbed a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 1-1 with Jordan in the
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