Salem Al Dawsari's goal secures Saudi victory over Tajikistan in World Cup qualifiers

March 22, 2024

Saudi Gazette report

Salem Al Dawsari's standout first-half goal secured Saudi Arabia a 1-0 victory over Tajikistan in their Group G match of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027, held at Al Awwal Park on Thursday.

This win continues Saudi Arabia's flawless performance in the group, placing them at the top, while Tajikistan, the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 quarter-finalists, sit in second place with four points. The two teams are set to face off again in Dushanbe next week.

Al Dawsari's goal came midway through the first half when Mukhtar Ali retrieved the ball in the Tajik half and passed it to the Saudi captain. Demonstrating remarkable skill, Al Dawsari bypassed two defenders and launched a shot from outside the box, sending the ball straight into the net.

Tajikistan nearly responded shortly after, with a chance to equalize when Awn Al Saluli's slip-up allowed Shahrom Samiev to find Alisher Dzhalilov. Positioned with only the goalkeeper to beat, Dzhalilov's left-footed attempt was thwarted by the outstretched leg of Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais.

Under the direction of their new coach Gela Shekiladze, Tajikistan saw Dzhalilov again posing a threat. His potential goal was prevented by a crucial intervention from Al Saluli after Dzhalilov made a break down the right and delivered a potent low cross, which was blocked just before reaching Samiev.

Saudi Arabia had another notable attempt when a misplaced pass from Hanonov allowed Ali to find Mohammed Kanno, whose shot from 30 yards out narrowly missed the goal, brushing the outside of the net.

Tajikistan's goalkeeper, Rustam Yatimov, made a crucial save in the final minutes, denying Faisal Al Ghamdi’s header from an Al Dawsari corner, limiting Saudi Arabia's lead to a single goal. A significant defensive effort from Manuchekhr Safarov later prevented Saud Abdulhamid from scoring, as Safarov executed a heroic tackle to block Abdulhamid’s shot after an impressive solo run toward the Tajik box.

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