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Saudi Arabia floors North Korea 4-1
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 15 - 01 - 2015

Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (L) fights for the ball against North Korea's Jang Kuk-chol during their Asian Cup match at the Rectangular Stadium in Melbourne Wednesday. — Reuters


MELBOURNE — Mohammed Al-Sahlawi scored a brace as Saudi Arabia eliminated North Korea from the Asian Cup as super-sub Sun Ke fired China into the quarterfinals and Jordan fumed over a botched dope test that left a player ill.
There was bitter disappointment for North Korea, which scored its first Asian Cup goal for 23 years but lost 4-1 to Saudi Arabia and was eliminated.
Sun's superb solo effort after 68 minutes, moments after coming on, gave China a pulsating 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan and sent it into the knock-out stages for the first time since 2004. Away from the pitch, Jordan lodged a formal protest after claiming a bungled doping procedure had left one of its players vomiting, in a “semi-coma” and suffering with hypothermia.
Striker Ahmad Hayel could miss the game against Palestine Friday after he was made to drink “several liters of water” as he tried to provide a urine sample following Monday's 1-0 defeat by Iraq, according to the Jordanian FA.
Asian Cup organizers insisted the correct protocol had been followed as they busied themselves putting out fires after several refereeing controversies.
A second defeat ultimately sank North Korea after China's barnstorming comeback, while the Saudis breathed new life into their campaign after being upset 1-0 by the Chinese, who have suddenly emerged as dark horses.
North Korea took an early lead when Japan-based midfielder Ryang Yong-gi slammed in the rebound after Pak Kwang-ryong's fierce drive had been parried by goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah.
But Naif Hazazi equalized with a clinical finish against the run of play eight minutes before the interval. The Saudi forward's joy was unbridled, having fluffed a penalty against China at the weekend.
Mohammed Al-Sahlawi put the side in front seven minutes after the break, before profiting from some horror defending to roll in a third as North Korea began to unravel.
Nawaf Al-Abid added a fourth and Saudi Arabia, which won the last of its three Asian Cup titles in 1996, faces 2011 semifinalist Uzbekistan for the right to join China in the knockout stages Sunday.
“I knew North Korea would be dangerous and they gave us trouble,” he said. “But I was confident we would wear them down. We had to take some risks. Sometimes you have to assume risks to win.”
“I'm happy we won the game and also we had a good performance,” Saudi Arabia coach Cosmin Olaroiu said. “Now we have to forget it quickly to prepare for the next game against Uzbekistan.”
It was a red-letter day for the Chinese, runners-up in 1984 and again as host in 2004 but still chasing a first Asian Cup title.
China did it the hard way, going behind to Odil Ahmedov's deflected shot after 22 minutes.
It dragged itself back into the match, however, Wu Xi equalizing with a sharp finish 10 minutes into the second half before Sun's cracker triggered wild celebrations on the Chinese bench. — Agencies


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