Coach fired as Saudis lose to Syria

Saudi Arabia sack coach Peseiro after 2-1 defeat by Syria in Asian Cup opener while Japan draw with Jordan.

    Syria players celebrate with fans after hastening Peseiro's exit by beating the Saudis for the first time since 1976 [AFP]

    It took just one Asian Cup match for Saudi Arabia to sack their coach after the three-times champions were shocked 2-1 by an ecstatic Syria at the continental finals in Qatar.

    Portuguese boss Jose Peseiro was booted out hours after West Asian minnows Syria notched their first win over the Gulf giants since 1976 to become the surprise leaders of Group B.

    Two deflected strikes from midfielder Abdulrazak Al Husein saw Syria, who have never got past the first round of the Asian Cup, consign the Saudis to bottom of the group after Japan drew with Jordan in the earlier match on Sunday.

    Saudi Arabia's far superior pedigree includes four consecutive World Cup appearances from 1994.

    "We have sacked Jose Peseiro after the loss today and appointed Nasser Al Johar to continue our mission at the Asian Cup," said the Saudi Football Association in a statement.

    Results & fixtures

    Friday January 7
    Group A
     Qatar 0-2 Uzbekistan

    Saturday January 8
    Group A
     Kuwait 0-2 China

    Sunday January 9
    Group B
     Japan 1-1 Jordan
     Saudi Arabia 1-2 Syria

    Monday January 10
    Group C
     India v Australia
     South Korea v Bahrain

    The Syrians, competing in their first Asian Cup in 15 years, fully deserved the narrow victory as they defended tightly and caused Saudi Arabia numerous problems at Doha's Al Rayyan Stadium.

    Saudi football chiefs reacted immediately after rowdy reporters gave Peseiro an angry grilling after the match.

    "The quality of the players was not as we wished, they didn't play with their hearts. I blame the players and have released the coach," said FA president Prince Sultan Bin Fahd Bin Abdulaziz in a statement.

    "It is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia. The coach has had enough time, more than a year and a half, to do a perfect job."

    Roared on by passionate support, the Syrians took the lead seven minutes before half time when Al Husein prodded a half-volley from the edge of the area towards goal which was diverted past Saudi goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah by his fullback Abdullah Shuhail's slight headed touch.

    The Saudis improved after the break and drew level in the 59th minute when substitute Taiseer Al Jassam leapt into the penalty area to head Mosab Balhous's punched clearance from a corner back past the Syrian goalkeeper.

    The equaliser silenced the Syrian fans, who outnumbered and outsung their Saudi counterparts, maintaining the hum of a traditional Arabian chant throughout the match.

    The Syrians were cheering again just four minutes later, however, when Al Husein's right footed shot from just inside the area took a wicked deflection past Abdullah to restore the advantage.

    Syria survived some nervy moments in the last 10 minutes as they sunk deeper into their half with Naif Hazazi going very close with a header in the final minute.

    'Not deserved'

    "We did not deserve to lose, but we did and we are disappointed," Peseiro had said before his sacking.

    "I am disappointed with the result and, although our performance was not very good, it was also not very bad.

    "They put their maximum into the match, they gave it their spirit and played with their hearts and not their heads sometimes."

    Al Johar, a Saudi national, has coached the team before.

    He took over at the Asian Cup in 2000 when the Saudis fired Milan Macala in similar fashion to Peseiro after defeat in their opening game, and helped steer them to the final, where they lost to Japan.

    He was also at the helm during the 2002 World Cup and took over again in 2008 when Helios Dos Anjos was let go, only to resign in February 2009 when the Green Falcons lost to North Korea in World Cup qualifying.

    Japan grab draw

    Earlier, three-times Asian champions Japan grabbing an equaliser through a last-minute header from Maya Yoshida to draw 1-1 with Jordan in the other Group B match.

    Hasan Abdel-Fattah stunned Alberto Zaccheroni's side when his deflected shot gave Jordan the lead seconds before half time at the Qatar Sports Club stadium.

    The West Asians then withstood heavy pressure from Japan throughout the second half and it looked like they would escape with a famous victory before Yoshida scored in the 90th minute.

    It was a dispiring end for the unfancied Jordan, who had taken the lead when Abdel-Fattah received the ball just outside the area, skipped the challenge of Yasuyuki Konno and swept a shot towards goal that took a wicked deflection off the boot of Yoshida to loop into the back of the net.

    Japan dominated possession in the second half but were finding themselves increasingly frustrated by a Jordan side that was growing in confidence as the clock counted down towards full time.

    But the wave of pressure finally told when the East Asians equalised in stoppage time when Hasebe delivered a fine cross following a short corner and Yoshida rose to head home at the far post.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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