Saudi national football team arrive in Tajikistan

Saudi national football team arrive in Tajikistan
Saudi national football team arrive in Tajikistan

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Saudi Arabia defeated Tajikistan 1-0 in Riyadh on Thursday to make it three wins from three in 2026 World Cup qualification. A first-half goal from Salem Al-Dawsari confirmed the Green Falcons’ place on top of Group G, with one foot in the final round on the road to North America.

It was a welcome win, especially following the disappointment of the Asian Cup in January and the penalty shootout defeat at the hands of South Korea.

The triumph was also a hard-fought one with the visitors competing at both ends of the pitch. It took a moment of quality from the Asian player of the year to break the deadlock and secure the points.

The Central Asians, who reached the knockout stages of the Asian Cup, made most of the early running and capitalized on a number of misplaced passes as they pressed the hosts’ defense that tried, and sometimes failed, to play out from the back.

But for all their promising moves, Tajikistan lacked the final product all night.

They could have done with someone like Al-Dawsari, who looked the liveliest player on the pitch from the first whistle. The Al-Hilal star almost finished from close range after waltzing through the defense after only 11 minutes. Soon after, the home fans were calling for a penalty after Saleh Al-Shehri went down in the area, but the referee waved the appeals away.

There were even stronger calls for a spot kick following a handball after a shot from Saud Abdulhamid, but the officials were again unmoved.

It did not prove crucial as Al-Dawsari then showed his class. He picked up the ball, skipped past a challenge from Parvizdzhon Umarbaev and then, as three red shirts converged on his position on the edge of the area, let fly with a low shot that gave the goalkeeper no chance.

The visitors should have leveled on the half hour as a defensive slip let in Alisher Dzhalilov but his effort was blocked by the leg of goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais.

Both teams continued to push forward and there was another shout for a penalty when Al-Shehri was brought down, but the foul took place just outside the area. From the resultant free-kick, Mohamed Kanno’s drive went close.

Tajikistan came close early in the second half as Ehson Panjshanbe shot wide from outside the area. Their attacking, though, gave the Kingdom counter-attacking opportunities, but the killer pass could not quite be found, although Kanno went close again.

Abdulhamid made a break in the area with eight minutes left but delayed too long in taking the shot and it was blocked.

It felt like Tajikistan were going to get one big chance, and while it was not the most glaring of opportunities, Rustam Soirov fired wide from inside the area in the 94th minute.

The whistle went and although it had not been a vintage performance from Roberto Mancini’s men, the result leaves them in a strong position.

With Jordan winning 3-0 in Pakistan earlier in the day, the outcome means that Saudi Arabia are five points clear at the top of the group — from which the top two progress to the final round — and they will advance with a win in Tajikistan on Tuesday.

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