Saudi Arabia Down Tajikistan To Start Title Defence With Victory


(MENAFN- The Peninsula) #AFC U23 ASIAN CUP Fawad Hussain |The Peninsula

Doha, Qatar: Ayman Yahya scored a brace as Saudi Arabia kick started their AFC U23 Asian Cup title defence with a pulsating 4-2 victory over Tajikistan at the iconic Khalifa International Stadium
yesterday.

The defending champions, who are now leading Group C, dominated the match but faced tough resistance from their opponents particularly in the first half.

After Rayane Hamidou put Saad Al Shehri's side ahead with a stunning header in 17th minute, Tajikistan leveled through Ruslan Khailoev six minutes later.

Saudi Arabia regained their lead in eighth minute of added time before the break through Haitham Asiri, and doubled their advantage when Yahya slotted a perfect hit into the bottom corner in 55th minute.

Just six minutes later, the 22-year-old scored his second goal to extend lead with a low drive in the left corner from edge of the box.

Rustam Soirov pulled one back three minutes later with a strike into the roof of the net from a close range but Saudi Arabia held their lead to clinch comfortable victory in the end.

Earlier in first Group C match at Al Janoub Stadium
, Thailand stunned Iraq 2-0, claiming their first-ever victory against the former champions at U23 level in the sixth outing between the two sides.

The Ithsara Sritharo-coached side displayed an outstanding performance throughout the match, taking the lead through Waris Choolthong in 26th minute.

Waris also played role in Thailand's second goal in 65th as his perfect corner was brilliantly headed by substitute Teerasak Poeiphimai into the far left of the goal.

The situation worsened for Iraq seven minutes later when they were reduced to 10 man following second yellow card of the match to Nihad Mohammed, who was also cautioned in the first half.

Thailand now face Saudi Arabia while Iraq will look to score points against Tajikistan on Friday.

Ten-man Japan edge China

In Group B, Japan defeated China 1-0 to start their campaign on a winning note at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium
despite a 17th minute red card to Ryuya Nishio.

The former champions, eyeing an Olympic spot for eighth consecutive time, went ahead in eighth minute when Kuryu Matsuki, who struck in his second attempt from a close range.

A clash with Jia Feifan resulted in marching orders for Nishio following a VAR review. Japan did well to retain their lead, resisting several attacks from their counterparts.

South Korea players celebrate their goal against UAE. PIC: Rajan Vadakkemuriyil / The Peninsula

Also yesterday, South Korea edged the UAE 1-0, thanks to a stoppage-time header by substitute Lee Young-jun.

The Koreans, who saw their several efforts thwarted by the UAE defence, finally found the winner in fourth minute of stoppage time when Young-jun rose to connect Lee Tae-sok's corner kick.

South Korea, who are leading the group with Japan, will now meet China while Japan will take on the UAE on Friday.

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The Peninsula

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