The difference between a good and a better team could be judged in the manner in which they convert their setpieces. It was witnessed in the summer of Germany and it was once again on display on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in Bangalore.
On Tuesday, Tajikistan won a number of freekicks in front of the Japanese box but couldn’t make them count. However, Saudi Arabia are no minnows in this department and reaped the benefits of all the hard work done on the training field.
And after a disappointing draw against Iraq in their first encounter, the Saudis got their winning acts together and strolled past a Malaysian team that is missing four of their regulars.
Saudi Arabia won 2-0 in this Group D encounter and both came from well-executed freekicks. First Mohammed Al Sahlawi dusted himself up from a tackle and put a wicked one to the far corner in the 14th minute. Ali Ataif followed suit at the hour mark after Naif Hazazi was brought down in front of the Malaysian box.
In between and even after, it were the Saudis who ran the show, at times slowing down the pace and at other times, tearing down the flanks as the Malaysians struggled to keep pace. They could have added some more goals, but in trying to be too flashy, they lost out on the opportunities.
Pitted against the physically superior Saudi Arabians, the Malaysians needed to come out of their blocks faster, the way the North Koreans did against the Iranians.
But they were a lot sluggish, a point conceded by coach K Rajagobal. Moreover, they were done in by their poor delivery in front of the opposition box and many a build-up was wasted. But they did get their chance, especially when the Saudis were down to 10 men after substitute Ahmed Al Fraidi was sent off for a tackle on Safiq Rahim in the 79th minute.
But some dour defending from Saudi Arabia dashed Malaysia’s hopes and put them out of the competition.
Iraq beat Vietnam 3-1 in another Group D encounter. Usama Muhammad gave Iraq the lead in the 11th minute and Ala Khshen doubled the lead in the 36th.
However, Vietnam fought back after the break and reduced the margin through Van Khai Nguyen’s penalty in the 75th minute after he was brought down inside the box by Mohammed Mohdie. But Iraq replied six minutes later when Khshen scored.