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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jun 14, 2006

Jaidi leveller leaves Lemerre relieved

Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre was a relieved but disappointed man after seeing his team salvage a 2-2 draw in their World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia thanks to Radhi Jaidi's injury-time equaliser in Munich.

Jaidi struck from close range in the third minute of injury-time after late substitute Sami Al Jaber looked to have given the Saudis their first World Cup in 12 years with a well taken goal six minutes from time.

But Jaidi capitalised on a hesitant Saudi Arabian defence to earn his team a point in a game Lemerre had hoped would yield Tunisia a winning start to the tournament.

`I wanted three points and I got a draw,' said the Frenchman. `We wanted to start with a win but we didn't open the door wide enough so we have will to wait a little while longer.'

Lemerre's team looked to be well on their way to starting the tournament with a victory when Zied Jaziri gave Tunisia the lead in the 23rd minute with an acrobatic strike after the Saudis failed to clear Adel Chedli's free-kick from the right flank.

The Tunisians dominated the opening period but lacked the drive to capitalise on their possession and in the second half the Saudis turned the tables.

After looking nervous and uncertain in the opening 45 minutes, the Saudis finally started to click as they took the battle to the African side down the flanks.

A rapid break down the right yielded the equaliser for Marcos Paqueta's team when defender Ahmed Dokhi released Mohammad Noor and his first-time cross was expertly fired home by Yasser Al Kahtani, who hammered the ball into the roof of the net from the tightest of angles.

The game looked to be headed for a draw when Paqueta introduced veteran striker Al Jaber from the bench and the 33-year-old celebrated his appearance at a fourth straight World Cup finals with Saudi Arabia's second six minutes from time when he raced in unopposed to slot the ball beyond Ali Boumnijel.

Al Jaber's goal almost represented a fine comeback from the Saudis only for the Saudi defence to fail once against to clear their lines, allowing Jaidi to salvage a point for his team.

`We knew the first match would be difficult,' said Lemerre. `There can always be a winner, a loser and a draw and don't forget that the objective is to get to the last match and no hope is lost until then to go to the second round.

`But we still have to fight hard. We are now in a difficult situation but that is what a competition is all about.

`We had the experience because we used it at the last moment, but we didn't use it before that. The team does not have enough experience in this kind of competition, at least for a number of players.

`It's a draw. We could have won but the Saudis could say the same. We are not in the best form. It is the first game at a World Cup and I think it is unfortunate but if I was from Saudi Arabia I would think the same.'

Saudi coach Paqueta considered the draw a missed opportunity as the nation looks to qualify for the second round for the first time since their World Cup debut in the United States in 1994.

`We lost two points,' said the Brazilian. `Each game for us is three points, so we lost two.

`The game for us had two parts. The first part we were very nervous and afraid of Tunisia and both teams made mistakes.

`At the interval we talked to the players and we asked them to move more, to work more along the wings and we brought the midfield nearer to the defence.

`Down the wings we created more goalscoring opportunities and I was happy with that, even when we were losing 1-0. We improved ourselves enough to score two goals.'