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Uzbekistan shocks Saudi Arabia
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 03 - 2008

Saudi Arabia suffered a stunning upset at the hands of Uzbekistan, losing 3-0 in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification match at MHSK Stadium in Tashkent Wednesday.
The defeat was the first for Saudis against the Uzbeks since Uzbekistan joined the Asian Football Confederation in 1994.
Timur Kapadze fired the home team in the first half before Maksim Shatskikh doubled the lead in the second half. Two minutes after Maksim's goal, Server Djeparov sealed the win for the host.
The win put Uzbekistan on top of Group D with 6 points while Saudi Arabia shared the second place with Singapore which won 2-0 over Lebanon at the National Stadium in Singapore.
Uzbeks had the upper hand in the early minutes of the first half and the team almost opened the scoring in the 15th minute when striker Maksim Shatskikh blasted from close but the ball flew inches from the Saudi bar.
In the 21st minute, Uzbekistan threatened the Saudis again with Ulugbek Bakaev firing and goalkeeper Taiser Al-Netaif conceding a corner.
Eight minutes later, defender Hayrulla Karimov headed the ball over the bar.
In the midway of the first half, Saudi Arabia and its coach Anjos suffered a big blow when international striker Yasser Al-Qahtani injured his ankle and left the field. Saad Al-Harithi took his place.
The only Saudi threat came in the 36th minute when Malek Al-Hawsawi headed the ball toward the goal but defender Karimov cleared the ball on time.
Uzbeks pressed further and were rewarded with a late goal in the first half when Timur Kapadze headed the ball home a few seconds before the break.
After the break, Saudi team launched several attacks on their rivals but the young goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov stood firm. In the 66th minute, the crossbar denied Hassan Moaz's attempt.
As the Saudis were toiling hard for an equalizer, striker Maksim Shatskikh doubled the lead two minutes later.
Maksim, who replaced Andrei Shevchenko in Dynamo Kiev, beat the Saudi defense before he sent the ball to the left side of the advanced Al-Netaif.
In the 70 minute, Uzbeks completed the tally when Server Djeparov scored from the spot.
Saudi team will host Lebanon in its third round match on June 2 at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
China held Australia and the two Koreas also fought to a goalless draw as the qualifiers stepped up a gear Wednesday.
China's Shao Jiayi had a last-gasp penalty saved and South Korea was frustrated by the North's stubborn defense as some of Asia's top teams failed to find the net.
Group 1 favorites Australia remains provisionally top of the “Group of Death” with Asian champion Iraq playing Qatar later.
South Korea stays ahead of the North in Group 3 on goal difference, with both one point ahead of Jordan who beat Turkmenistan 2-0.
Thailand was beaten 1-0 by Oman as its hopes took a tumble and Syria drew 1-1 with the United Arab Emirates.
Chinese midfielder Shao was distraught after scuffing his penalty in the dying minutes against Australia in front of 32,500 baying home fans in Kunming.
Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer dived low to his left in the 88th minute to block Shao's shot as Australia escaped the tricky tie with a point.
“I must apologize to the team and the fans for that penalty kick,” Shao said. “Because of me we did not win the game. We should have won the game. I really feel bad about this.”
Australia should have been firm favorite but it had only two days to acclimatize to Kunming's 1,900-meter altitude and a long injury list including Everton's Tim Cahill and Celtic striker Scott McDonald.
Given the difficulties, coach Pim Verbeek was happy with the result, which maintained his unbeaten record and kept Australia on course for South Africa 2010. __


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