Saudis ease past Palestine in 2022 World Cup qualifier

31.03.2021

Saudi Arabia eased past Palestine 5-0 on Tuesday to go top of Group D in the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The two sides had featured in a goalless draw when they clashed earlier in the competition at Al Ram in 2019, but the Asian giants proved far superior on their home turf with Saleh al-Shehri grabbing a second-half brace at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh.

Earlier, Yasser al-Shahrani found himself in a perfect position to score with a header to put the Saudis ahead in the 37th minute after Palestine goalkeeper Toufic Ali failed to collect a cross by Fahad al-Muwallad.

Al-Muwallad increased the lead six minutes later as the Palestinians started wilting under sustained pressure, the winger scoring on his second attempt after his initial effort after a back-heel pass by al-Shehri was deflected by goalkeeper Ali.

Saleh Al-Shehri (photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri)
Saudia Arabia's Saleh Al-Shehri celebrates scoring his country's third goal against Palestine in the World Cup Qualifier match at King Saud University Stadium, Riyadh, 30 March 2021

Al-Shehri then grabbed two goals within a space of seven minutes early in the second half, taking his personal tally to three in just his fourth cap with the senior team.

Saudi captain Salem al-Dawsari completed the rout with an 88th-minute penalty after Palestinian defender Ahmed Qatmish had handled the ball.

The three points took Saudi Arabia's tally to 11 after five matches, overtaking Uzbekistan who have nine.

The Palestinians had shocked Uzbekistan 2-0 in their opening match and forced a draw against Saudi Arabia for their four points, but are now languishing at the bottom of the group after failing to build on their fine start.

The remaining matches will be played in Saudi Arabia in June in a centralised format due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)

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