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Saudi Arabia take step closer to World Cup 2022
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 28 - 01 - 2022

Saudi Arabia consolidated their position at the top of Group B of the AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar with a narrow 1-0 home win against Oman at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on Thursday.
With the win, Saudi Arabia's tally rose to 19 points, confirming at least a playoff spot with the possibility of finishing below third place eliminated.
They could confirm qualification to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 with a win in their next match. Meanwhile, Oman's fate is hanging by a thread, as they are left with a seven-point gap between them and third place with three games to go.
Struggling to impose themselves on the game, Saudi Arabia had quite a few chances but had to withstand some pressure at times that was never translated into goals by Oman, whose best chances came in the first half.
The opening 15 minutes lacked any goal threat and were more about establishing a sustained period of possession, which neither side managed although the home side had a sight of goal through right-back Sultan Al Ghannam, whose overlapping run put him in position to strike from the tightest of angles but his shot was comfortable held by Faiyz Al Rashidi.
The Omanis broke forward midway through the first half and Harib Al Saadi teed up Rabia Al Alawi, whose shot was close but narrowly missed. Al Saadi later had a chance of his own, a long range strike that Saudi keeper Mohammed Al Owais calmly watched as it made its way out.
Saudi Arabia's first close chance came at the final stages of the first 45 minutes, when Firas Al Brikan rose highest to head Yasser Al Shahrani's cross, but Al Rashidi saved that ball. A few minutes later, centre-back Abdulelah Al Malki beautifully struck a volley from far out that the Omani keeper was well-positioned to save.
The Green Falcons opened the scoring three minutes into the second period, when Salem Al Dawsari's long ball found Al Ghannam, who broke free from his marker and fired a stinging low shot towards Al Rashidi but the keeper spilled the ball into Al Brikan's path, with the Al Fateh striker calmly prodding into the net from close range to make it 1-0.
Khalid Al Hajri got a chance to pull his team level when Jameel Al Yahmadi's pinpoint corner reached his head, but the ball skimmed past the crossbar. Al Alawi got another chance when he received another Al Yahmadi cross, turning and shooting from inside the area but he skied his shot.
Saudi Arabia travel to Saitama for the crunch tie against second placed Japan on Tuesday, and on the same day Oman will face Australia in a must-win clash. — SG

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