Saudis and South Korea draw

Saudi Arabia earns a 1-1 draw with South Korea.

    South Korean Choi Sung-kuk Choi opens the
    scoring [AFP]

    Saudi Arabia salvaged a 1-1 draw against South Korea with a second-half penalty in their opening Asian Cup match which was interrupted for 25 minutes when the power failed at Indonesia's Soviet-era soccer stadium.

    Saudi Arabian striker Yasser Al Qahtani fired home the penalty on 75 minutes after the referee judged that Korean right-back Oh Beom-seok pulled down striker Malek Maaz as he approached on goal.

    Just over 10 minutes earlier, Korea had taken the lead on a header by Choi Sung-kuk in what had mostly been a defensive display by both regional soccer giants in their first match at this year's Asian Cup.

    After scoring the goal, Choi was immediately substituted by Korea's Dutch coach Pim Verbeek.

    "Physically, he was finished. He could not do his job any more," Verbeek said.

    "Of course I would like to have won, but in the end a draw was the best result."

    The result means co-hosts Indonesia, which beat Bahrain on Monday, are top of the group, a scenario few would have predicted before the tournament began.

    It is also good news for Bahrain, which can now get back into contention when it plays South Korea on Sunday.

    Play stopped on 84 minutes when a power failure cut out some of the floodlights and much of the other lighting at Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno stadium, which aside from Group D matches will also host the final of the tournament on July 29.

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    As the crowd jeered, the players wandered around the pitch while deep in the 88,000-capacity stadium technicians booted up an emergency generator.

    Organizers said they were investigating the blowout.

    When play resumed, Saudi Arabia's young squad had two great chances to win the match.

    Malek Maaz missed the target after being put through on goal and Saad Al Harthi saw a powerful shot from outside the penalty area well saved by the Korean keeper.

    "The first game is always tough. Korea played in a way the complicated things for us," said Saudi coach Helio Cesar dos Anjos.

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    "With more games, things will coalesce and we will have a better team."

    Saudi Arabia's best moment in a cagey first half came with less than a minute gone, when Al Qahtani had a free header inside the penalty box but sent the ball over the bar.

    Maaz was denied in the 25 minute when the Korean keeper stopped a powerful shot with his foot at the inside post.

    Korean striker Cho Jae-jin unleashed a spectacular overhead kick on the 40th minute, but the Saudi keeper got a palm to it.

    Yasser Al Mosailem was forced to make another save minutes later, getting his legs in the way of a powerful left-foot strike from outside the area by Kim Chee- woo.

    Indonesia plays Saudi Arabia on Saturday knowing that if it upsets the form book and wins it will be on the cusp of reaching the quarter finals of the Asian Cup for the first time in its history.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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