SINGAPORE – Saad Al Harthi and Malek Maaz netted second half goals as Saudi Arabia downed United Arab Emirates 2-0 in an Asian Cup tune-up on Sunday evening.
The three-time Asian Cup champions dominated proceedings in the international friendly at Singapore’s National Stadium and claimed a deserved victory thanks to a pair of strikes created by the lively Abdulrahman Al Qahtani.
The first half was a largely uneventful affair and it was not until the 33rd minute that the Saudis created the first effort of note as Al Qahtani played a superb through ball to Malek Maaz only for the Saudi striker to balloon over from 15 metres.
Four minutes later, Saad Al Harthi met an Al Qahtani corner with a flicked header at the near post but UAE goalkeeper Waleed Salem made a good reflex save to turn the ball away from danger.
Salem did even better on 41 minutes when he spread himself superbly to deny an unmarked Al Harthi from close range.
UAE’s only real effort of the first half arrived a minute before the break when Saeed Al Kaas received the ball on the edge of the box but fired a weak shot that did little to trouble Saudi goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem.
The Saudi pressure would tell on 49 minutes when they took the lead as Al Harthi finally got the better of Salem, rising unmarked to head home another corner kick by playmaker Al Qahtani.
Salem did well to tip over a Kamil Al Mousa shot in the 52nd minute while Malek Maaz fired wastefully wide on 57 minutes after a superb cross by Al Qahtani.
Maaz would redeem himself through two minutes later, as he rose highest in the box to meet Al Qahtani’s free-kick from the right flank with a powerful header past Waleed Salem.
UAE coach Bruno Metsu attempted to shake up his side with seven second-half substitutions but although the Emirates improved in the final quarter of the match, the closest they came to pulling back a goal was a shot by Ahmed Mohammed 14 minutes from time that forced a good save out of Yasser Al Mosailem.
“The way we started the second half was a disaster because we showed little fighting spirit and conceded two goals,” said Metsu.
“However, the result today doesn’t matter because it is still only a preparation for us. What is important for us is to be ready for our matches in Vietnam,” the Frenchman added.
Saudi coach Helio Des Anjos had more to smile about after the game.
“I was very pleased with the performance of the players today,” said the Brazilian.
“It was a hard game for us especially in the first half but the players did well and created opportunities and I think we deserved to win the game.”