Saudi Arabia loses to UAE in World Cup qualification blow

Saudi Arabia loses to UAE in World Cup qualification blow”

In a shock that opens up all sorts of possibilities in the Socceroos' World Cup qualifying AFC Group B, the UAE have stunned Saudi Arabia 2-1 to give Australia a huge boost in its hopes to reach the showpiece event in Russian Federation.

The two third-placed teams from both Asian groups will contest a playoff in October to determine who goes into an intercontinental qualifier against the fourth-placed team in qualifying from CONCACAF, the North and Central America and the Caribbean confederation.

A draw for Australia would also strengthen Australia's qualifying hopes, leaving Japan and the Socceroos on 18 and 17 points respectively with a game to play, ahead of Saudi Arabia on 16.

The UAE's victory on Tuesday in Al-Ain was all the more remarkable because they bounced back within a minute after being a goal down to stun the powerful Saudis.

The visitors had begun the tie the stronger, and they opened the scoring inside 20 minutes as midfielder Nawaf Al Abed coolly converted from the penalty spot after he had been hauled down inside the area by UAE defender Mohamed Fawzi.

A Tariq Ahmed cross found Ali Mabkhout and the UAE star made no mistake with a right-footed shot from the centre of the box into the bottom corner.

Immediately after half-time, the Saudis had a golden opportunity to go ahead once again, but captain Osama Hawsawi's powerful header thudded against the crossbar.

Khalil scored the victor in the 60th minute after Ali Mabkhout had cancelled out Nawaf Al Abed's 20th minute penalty for Saudi Arabia to keep the UAE's own slim chances of qualifying for Russian Federation 2018 still intact.

Mahmoud Khamis of the UAE was sent off for a second bookable offence in the dying seconds of the game but the home side held on to take all three points.

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