JAKARTA, July 14 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia crashed Indonesia's Asian Cup party on Saturday by beating the co-hosts 2-1 in Group D thanks to Saad Al Harthi's stoppage-time winner.
After dominating for the better part of an hour, Indonesia
simply ran out of gas in the latter stages.
Saudi Arabia, three times winners of Asia's premier soccer
tournament, climbed to the top of the group on four points after
the win, with Indonesia in second a point behind.
South Korea play Bahrain in the other group match on Sunday.
Indonesia coach Ivan Kolev, who had hoped for a brighter end
to his 50th birthday, could not hide the heartbreak.
'I felt very disappointed for the team, especially for the
supporters,' said the popular Bulgarian, who received an ovation
from the local media at the post-match news conference.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was among the
88,000 in attendance at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, hoping to
see the home side clinch a quarter-final berth with a win.
Indonesia, backed by a manic home crowd, started brightly
and carved out a couple of early chances, but it was Saudi
Arabia that grabbed the lead in the 15th minute.
Ahmed Al Bahri surged down the right and delivered an
inviting cross into the box, where Yasser Al Qahtani snapped a
header past Indonesia goalkeeper Yandri Pitoy.
The home side struck back five minutes later.
Elie Aiboy, who earlier spurned an opportunity with the goal
at his mercy, latched onto a through ball and strode into the
penalty area, drawing Saudi goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem and
The Saudi keeper had to make two stunning stops just before
half-time as Indonesia's impish wingers threatened to run riot,
but they failed to press home the advantage.
Saudi Arabia looked the stronger side in the second half
while the co-hosts wilted, and it was only goalkeeper Pitoy that
kept Indonesia in the game.
But after two great saves to deny Abdulrahman Al Qahtani,
Pitoy was finally beaten deep in injury time when substitute Al
Harthi popped up to head home the winner.
The goal put Saudi in pole position in Group D, but coach
Helio Cesar dos Anjos received more criticism than acclaim for
his side's performance from the Saudi Arabian media.
'There's no national team on the planet that can play a game
without having a few problems,' the Brazilian countered.
'It doesn't matter if it's Germany, Brazil or Argentina who
were playing today, they all would have had problem moments.'