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AFC U-19: Saudi Arabia book a spot in the semi-finals after overcoming the young Socceroos

ANALYST
Feature
154   //    30 Oct 2018, 18:53 IST

Nathaniel Atkinson was the lone scorer for Australia
Nathaniel Atkinson was the lone scorer for Australia

Ante Milicic made three changes to his eleven which drew Jordan. He brought in Nathaniel Atkinson, Walter Scott, and Apostolos Stamatelopoulos and left out John Iredale, Connor Metcalfe, and Mathieu Cordier.

Khaled Abdullah Mohammed made sweeping changes to his starting eleven with only Naif Almas and Hamed Alghamdi retaining their places from the team that defeated Tajikistan.

Quarter-Final: Saudi Arabia defeat Australia 3-1

(KSA: Turki Al-Ammar 7', Feras Albirakan 50’, Saud Abdulhamid 82'; AUS: Nathaniel Atkinson 42’) 

The Green Falcons adopted the standard 4-4-2 formation. With Mohammed Al-Shanqiti and Muhannad Al-Shanqiti venturing down the wings, Khalid Al-Ghannam stepped up to support the strikers turning into a three-pronged attack with a 2-5-3 formation.

Saudi enjoyed 54% of the ball possession and won 68% of the aerial duels. They ran amock with 27 attempts on the Australian goal of which 12 were on target and eight off the mark. Saud Arabia kept the Australian attack under control winning 24 tackles.

Socceroos went ahead with a 4-5-1 style. In pursuit of goals, they modified it to a 3-4-3 formation with Tate Russell taking control of the right midfield as Oliver Puflett and Ben Folami moved forward down the wings.

Australia found it hard to get past the water-tight Saudi defence managing only eleven shots on goal of which three found the target and six were off the mark. James Delianov yet again had a brilliant day pulling of seven saves to keep Australia in the hunt.

In an early goal-mouth melee, Faraj Al-Ghashayan’s cross found defender Muhannad Al-Shanqiti sprinting down the right to strike the ball goal bound. An half-stop from Delianov trickled beyond the far post where Turki Al-Ammar managed to keep the ball in and reeled off a strike which was saved by Delianov and the follow-up shot was cleared by Con Ouzounidis, as Australia heaved a sigh of relief. 

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Feras Al-Birakan of Saudi Arabia chesting the ball down (Image Courtesy: The World Game SBS)
Feras Al-Birakan of Saudi Arabia chesting the ball down (Image Courtesy: The World Game SBS)

Australia’s first effort of the game resulted from a free kick taken by Sebastian Pasquali. Con Ouzounidis came up with the header which was dealt well by Saudi custodian Abdulrahman Alshammari.

Naif Almas found Turki Al-Ammar on the left wing. Turki Al-Ammar came up with a brilliant solo run cutting in from the left field to get past Tate Russell as he reeled off a right footed shot which found the bottom right corner. The Saudi custodian Abdulrahman Alshammari performed a series of back flips in jubilation.

Ben Folami's low cross failed to find both Oliver Puflett and Apostolos Stametelolpoulos as Australia were forcing their way back in the game looking for an equalizer.

After the Saudi defence cleared the ball from the penalty area, it fell to an unmarked Angus Thurgate whose strike got stopped by Abdulrahman Alshammari in the 35th minute.

In the 42nd minute, Australia drew level when Ben Folami’s cross got headed away by Melbourne City's Nathaniel Atkinson which fortunately catches the leg of Naif Almas and ricochets off Atkinson’s feet to enter the goal. 

Feras Al-Birakan 46th minute header got comfortably saved by Con Ouzounidis on the line.

Feras Al-Briakan's persistence got finally rewarded as he capitalized on the follow-up after Delianov had denied Faraj Al Ghashayan with a left-footed shot to give the Green Falcons a deserving lead. 

In the 58th minute, Turki Al-Ammar came up with an outstanding pass to find Feras Al-Birakan whose effort got saved by a mighty left hand from James Delianov.

In the 59th minute, a super strike from Mohammed Al-Shanqiti got parried away by James Delianov before he managed to do enough to thwart Feras Albirakan’s follow up strike which ended up wide across the goal.

In the 79th minute, another penetrative cross found a sliding Feras Al-Birakan at the far post along with Walter Scott of Australia. Before Feras Al-Birakan can recover to swirl around and shoot lying on the ground, James Delianov grabbed the ball to save the day.

The high press by the Green Falcons resulted in a mistake by Ajax's Sebastian Pasquali. Saud Abdulhamid pounced on the opportunity as he swirled past the keeper to score into the bottom left corner. 

Saudi Arabian coach speaking to the media said, “The team is improving from game to game, so we are looking forward to achieving the highest level we can.”

Saudi Arabia will meet Japan in what would be a cracker of a semi-final.

Semi-Final Line-up:

November 1, 2018 - Qatar vs South Korea

November 1, 2018 - Saudi Arabia vs Japan

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