AFC Asian Cup: Saudi defeat Lebanon, march into round of 16
Three-time champions Saudi Arabia marched into the Round of 16 of the AFC Asian Cup by working off Lebanon on Saturday night.
Goals from Al Ittihad winger Fahad Al Muwallad and Hussain Al Moqahwi on 12 and 67 minutes gave the Green Falcons a 2-0 win at the Al Maktoum Stadium.
Juan Antonio Pizzi's men, who had thumped DPR Korea 4-0 in their tournament opener, went through with six points from two games.
It was the first time since 1996, when Saudi Arabia won the tournament here in the UAE, that they had won their opening two fixtures. They went on to beat the UAE on penalties in the final.
This was also Saudi Arabia's second clean sheet in eight group stage matches. The last time the Green Falcons did that was in 2000.
Meanwhile, Lebanon have conceded 11 goals in five of their matches.
Saudi Arabia asked the questions with a flurry of attacks early on but the Lebanon backline had an impregnable shape about it.
Lebanon arrived with a game plan of sitting deep and then going on the counter-attack and it almost worked for The Cedars with captain Hassan Maatouk grabbing hold of the ball and then speeding away on 11 minutes.
The former Ajman and Fujairah frontman then slipped in a fantastic through for Hilal Alhelwe Bur the latter fluffed it by firing his left-footer over the cross bar.
But it was Saudi Arabia who hit back almost immediately with the impressive Fahad Al Muwallad breaking the deadlock in the next minute.
The winger, on loan at La Liga club Levante, capitalised on a defensive blunder, before blasting it home. The ball hit the inside of the cross bar and went in, the sheee power and pace leaving goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil with no chance.
Lebanon had an opportunity on 15 minutes but Al Nasr defender Joan Oumari, returning to his stomping ground, headed it just wide off a freekick.
At the other end, the hard-working Hatan Bahbri tested Khalil with a left-footed grounder but the shot stopper did well by collect it.
Lebanon should have cancelled out the lead on 24 minutes had the pony-tailed George Felix Melki connected to the freekick from the left. The midfielder made a valiant attempt to get to with a desperate lunge, but in vain.
Saudi Arabia threatened with Mohammed Al Burayk taking a direct freekick and Khalil just about managed to keep it out, on 36 minutes.
Khalil was called into action after the break and he came up with a brilliant save to thwart Bahbri's swerving long ranger from the right.
But Saudi Arabia got their second on 67 minutes with Hussain Almoqahwi sliding it home from close range after Robert Melki had failed to mark him properly, following Bahbri's pass.
S. Arabia 2 Lebanon 0
Iran 2 Vitenam 0
Iraq 3 Yemen 0
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