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Second half blitz powers Saudi Arabia past Vietnam
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 03 - 09 - 2021

Saudi Arabia bounced back strongly in the second half to beat 10-man Vietnam 3-1 in their opening AFC Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Thursday.
Vietnam took the lead as early as the third minute when Nguyen Quang Hai slotted home from outside the box, but Do Duy Manh's red card in the 54th minute proved most costly as Saudi Arabia mounted a stunning comeback with Salem Al Dawsari and Saleh Al Shehri neatly converting their penalties together with Yaseer Al Shahran's stunning header to secure all three points at the King Saud University Stadium.
Everyone at King Saud University Stadium thought the hosts had found the leveller in the 28th minute as Fahad Al Muwallad broke free following Saleh Al Shehri's fine threaded pass, rounding the goalkeeper and preparing to fire into the empty net before a heroic Do Duy Minh last-ditch challenge arrived to clear it behind.
Al Muwallad was again sent through on goal with six minutes to go until the break, this time being set up by a Salman Al Faraj pass from the right, and the Ittihad forward attempted a chipped finish but was foiled by goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong.
Five minutes after the restart, Duy Minh's attempt at another goal-saving tackle backfired as Al Faraj got on the end of a Sultan Al Ghannam cross and looked to apply the finish, but the defender's sliding challenge saw him handle the ball inside the box, prompting the referee to point to the spot and send Duy Minh off following confirmation from VAR.
Al Dawsari stepped up and converted from the spot to bring Saudi Arabia level.
Halfway through the second period, Saudi Arabia took advantage of their numerical superiority to take the lead for the first time on the night. A well-played string of passes saw the ball fed to Al Ghannam on the flank and the Al Nassr right-back sent a floating cross into the far post for his opposite full-back Yasser Al Shahrani who powered in the header to make it 2-1.
The night went from bad to worse for Vietnam as skipper Que Ngoc Hai brought down Al Dawsari inside the box and Saudi Arabia were awarded a second penalty 10 minutes from time. Al Shehri stepped up and perfectly executed his Panenka, leaving the Vietnamese goalkeeper with no chance to cement the home side's win.
Next in the group, Saudi Arabia travel to Muscat to face Oman, who beat Japan earlier in the day, while Vietnam's Tuesday fixture sees them welcome an Australia side who opened their campaign with a comfortable win against China.


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