Asian Cup 2019: Han Kwang-song has horror show in Saudi Arabia v North Korea report card

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Saudi Arabia made a comfortable start at the 2019 Asian Cup as they shared out the goals in a 4-0 defeat of 10-man North Korea.

The lively Hattan Bahebri expertly curled in a 28th-minute opener against solid opponents at Rashid Stadium, stacked deep in a 5-4-1 formation. Perugia loanee Han Kwang-song then came to the fore, missing a sitter before the excellent Mohammed Al Fatil flicked in the second. Han was then sent off for a second yellow card in eight, wild, minutes.

In the second half, Salem Al Dawsari showcased his talents to skip inside and deftly find the bottom corner before Fahad Al Muwallad made up for several misses with a late lashed finish.

Here is the report card from this Group E clash:

GOOD

Filling in for Al Faraj

Consternation and worry filled the Saudi Arabia ranks when inspirational Al Hilal midfielder Salman Al Faraj failed to prove his fitness on the eve of the tournament.

He was one of few to impress at the World Cup. But there is still promise without him in the near-month – they hope – ahead.

In Al Faraj’s absence, club-mate Abdullah Otayf was a picture of efficiency and Al Ahli Jeddah’s Housain Al Mogahwi injected experience.

Digging in

Mining positives is difficult for North Korea.

From the moment Han saw red, a 4-0 defeat was probably the best they could have hoped for. For comparison, they went down to this scoreline against much-weaker Bahrain in last week’s final warm-up.

They must now hope to keep 11 men and frustrate Qatar on Sunday.

BAD

Al Muwallad’s big misses

Don’t let Al Muwallad’s last-gasp goal cover up a glaring weakness.

The Al Ittihad superstar is a superb winger. But he showed, largely, at the World Cup and on Tuesday night, that he’s a genuinely false No9.

In the first half, he shot straight at Ri Myong-guk and he’ll struggle to explain his errant curled effort after the break.

With the inexperienced Mohammed Al-Saiari the only true striker in the squad, the Green Falcons could struggle for goals in the knockouts.

Han’s horror show

A year ago, Han was being linked to perennial Serie A champions Juventus.

Fast forward to the present and he had a horror show.

His free header at 1-0 was appalling, his second booking less than 10 minutes later unforgivable as he went through Al Mogahwi.

KEY MOMENTS

28 mins GOAL: Saudi go wide and Bahebri breaks international duck in style with supreme curled effort.

35th min CHANCE: Han has Saudi goal at his mercy, but heads over.

37th min GOAL: Al Fatil’s back-heeled volley sends a free-kick into the bottom corner.

44th min RED CARD: Han goes through back of Al Mogahwi and it’s an early bath.

70th min GOAL: Al Dawsari – who else? – skips through and fires in.

87th min GOAL: Al Muwallad, belatedly, thumps home from close range.

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Al Shehri’s snub

Al Nassr winger Yahya Al Shehri’s crown as the golden boy of Saudi football has long slipped.

Last season’s – unused – Leganes loanee didn’t even come off the bench in Dubai.

With only two goals and one assist in 13 Saudi Professional League games this term, Pizzi’s trust in the likes of Bahebri and Abdulaziz Al Bishi was correct – and justified.

VERDICT

Saudi Arabia – A

The Saudis showed patience against deep-lying opponents, then shared four goals between them.

A strong start ahead of Saturday’s Lebanon clash.

North Korea – C

North Korea were broken by their own indiscipline and limitations.

It looks like it’s going to be a short stay in Dubai.

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Asian Cup 2019: Hattan Bahebri and Abdullah Otayf excel in Saudi Arabia ratings

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Saudi Arabia made a comfortable start at the 2019 Asian Cup as they shared out the goals in a 4-0 defeat of 10-man North Korea.

The lively Hattan Bahebri expertly curled in a 28th-minute opener against solid opponents at Rashid Stadium, stacked deep in a 5-4-1 formation. Perugia loanee Han Kwang-song then came to the fore, missing a sitter before the excellent Mohammed Al Fatil flicked in the second. Han was then sent off for a second yellow card in eight, wild, minutes.

In the second half, Salem Al Dawsari showcased his talents to skip inside and deftly find the bottom corner before Fahad Al Muwallad made up for several misses with a late lashed finish.

Here is the report card from this Group E clash:

SAUDI ARABIA (4-1-4-1)

Mohammed Al Owais – 6: Watching brief for the Al Ahli Jeddah shot stopper. Was thankful to see Han’s free header go over, mind.

Mohammed Al Breik – 6: Kept it simple and, largely, left the adventurous stuff to roaming Al Hilal team-mate Al Shahrani.

Mohammed Al Fatil – 7: Produced a back-heeled volley that Saudi legend Sami Al Jaber would have been proud of.

Ali Al Bulaihi – 6: Precious little defending to do as Korea sat back, then went down to 10 men. Easy night’s work.

Yasser Al Shahrani – 7: Arguably Asia’s finest full-back eased his way into the competition. Supported Al Dawsari superbly.

Abdullah Otayf – 7: With Al Faraj injured, this was a big test for the accurate anchor man. Sterner ones, however, are to come.

Hattan Bahebri – 7: What a way to get your first international goal. Delightful curled shot broke deadlock. Lively presence.

Abdulaziz Al Bishi – 7: The Al Faisaly midfielder looks so comfortable at this level. Had a strong hand in opener.

Housain Al Mogahwi – 6: Floated in free-kick that Al Fatil impudently converted. Recycled ball exceedingly well against 10 men.

Salem Al Dawsari – 7: Quiet first half for Hilal flyer was forgotten when his dancing feet earned space and he curled home third. A fine player.

Fahad Al Muwallad – 6: Makeshift centre forward fluffed big chances in both halves, before belatedly smashing in from close range.

SUBSTITUTES

Abdulrahman Ghareeb – 6: Didn’t have a great deal to do in his 20 minutes on the pitch.

Mohammed Al Saiari – N/A: Squad’s only recognised No9 didn’t get any chances.

Hamdan Al Shamrani – N/A: Given a few minutes at the death.

NORTH KOREA (5-4-1)

Ri Myong-guk – 7: The World Cup 2010 veteran and Chollima skipper produced string of fine saves. Highlight came versus Al Muwallad.

Ri Il-jin – 5: The right wing-back was given a real test by the Al Mogahwi/Al Dawsari partnership on his flank.

Kim Song-gi – 6: The tall Japan-based centre-back held nothing back. Tried his best to hold the fort against Saudis.

Jang Kuk-chol – 6: Another one to do well in the face of adversity. Helped by sheer weight of men around him.

An Song-il – 5: Tried to keep Al Muwallad quiet. When ball was in the air, did well. Taken off at half-time.

Kim Chol-bom – 5: Saudis were forced to find space out wide. This left Kim exposed, at times. Tried to race forward.

Han Kwang-song – 2: In nine-minute spell, Perugia loanee missed a sitter, Saudis made it 2-0 and was dismissed.

Ri Yong-jik – 5: The Tokyo Verdy defensive midfielder was comprehensively overshadowed by Otayf. Looked lost, at times.

Ri Un-chol – 5: Didn’t provide enough of an attacking threat, or ample cover to his side when they became stretched at 10 men.

Jong Il-gwan – 6: The FC Luzern winger showed a few deft touches in the first half. Team-mates couldn’t make most of them.

Pak Kwang-ryong – 5: A difficult night for the St Polten centre forward. Ran down several blind alleys and always well marked.

SUBSTITUTES

Kim Kyong-Hun – 6: Tried, in vain, to keep his side in the contest when brought on at interval.

Ri Chang-Ho – 6: Couldn’t inject life into a listless, numerically disadvantaged side.

Rim Kwang-hyok – N/A: Only given injury time.

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Asian Cup 2019: Pim Verbeek confident Oman can reignite Gulf Cup spirit

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This time last year Oman were basking in the glory of a Gulf Cup triumph – and their Dutch tactician Pim Verbeek insists his side have every reason to feel good about themselves once again.

The Omanis penned one of football’s stories of the year in 2018, beating Arab heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the way to their second-ever triumph in the tournament.

The rest of the year was rather productive as well, going the entirety unbeaten in friendly match-ups with strong teams such as Ecuador and Syria before coming undone against the Aussies.

That 5-0 defeat, their last match before the tournament’s kick-off, will have stuck in the side’s craw but Verbeek is adamant there will be no repeat should they come up against the Asian Cup holders here.

“We had a good run in our build-up ahead of this tournament, we won plenty of friendlies but when you face a team like Australia, they are a completely different team than what we are accustomed to,” said Verbeek, who also coached the Socceroos between 2007-10.

“We were not used to them and we made individual mistakes in that match. It was a hard evening for the boys but at the end of the day, we can learn from our mistakes and improve.”

There could be a trick up the sleeve of Verbeek’s opposite number, Hector Cuper, the former Valencia and Inter Milan boss who coached Egypt at last year’s World Cup.

The Argentine is now employed by Uzbekistan, who narrowly missed out on qualification to the 2018 showpiece.

The Asian Cup may have come slightly too early – their youth team won the AFC Under-23 Championship last year – but Cuper is hoping his side’s unconventional build-up will pay off straight away in Sharjah.

“Our team had good preparation leading up to the tournament, especially our centralised camps which included high-intensity trainings. We didn’t only focus on Oman but also the tournament as a whole and I’m satisfied with how everything went,” said Cuper, whose side will also face Japan and Turkmenistan in Group F.

“I’m not worried that we didn’t not play any friendlies before the tournament. I made that decision for a valid reason. Sometimes players can pick up unnecessary injuries, so I didn’t want to expose my players to that kind of risk.”

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