Saudi comeback stuns UAE
© AFP

United Arab Emirates' dreams of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ received a major blow when they slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to neighbours Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis came from a goal down in the Asian Group 2 qualifier at the Bin Zayed Stadium to take maximum points, adding to a home draw secured in their opening match against Iran. Subait Khater scored from a brilliant corner kick in the 23rd minute of the first half to put the hosts ahead, but four minutes of mayhem undid most of the good work they had done in the first half.

Abdoh Autef restored parity for the Saudis when his powerful shot from outside 25 yards clipped the outstretched knee of defender Rashid Abdulrehman and deflected past the helpless UAE goalkeeper Majed Naser in the 68th minute. Four minutes later, Ahmed Al Fraidi sealed the win for the Saudis, who are hoping to make their fifth successive FIFA World Cup finals, with a measured shot after weaving through the hosts' defence.

It was a superb performance from the team to come back from one goal behind. The UAE were playing really well and putting us under a lot of pressure
Yasser Al Kahtani expresses his relief.

The result mean Saudi go joint-top of Group 2 alongside North Korea with four points, while UAE are at the bottom of the table, yet to open their account.

A delighted Saudi captain Yasser Al Kahtani, who came in as a substitute in the 46th minute, said: "This is a wonderful result for us, especially after the draw against Iran. ."

UAE dominated the first half, and were rewarded for their efforts when Khater's corner kick bounced perfectly between two defenders and then sailed past Saudi goalkeeper Waleed Ali into the far corner of the net. Bruno Metsu's men could have easily increased their lead in the 43rd minute when Ismail Mattar hit a gem of a forward pass which beat the Saudi defenders, but Ahmed Khalil, who only had to beat Waleed, shot wide.

Saudi looked a much more organised team with Al Kahtani in the second half. They had several shots on goal, but their best attempt came in the 62nd minute when UAE No1 Naser had to effect two reflex saves in succession. One of those saves was a full-blooded piledriver by Abdoh Autef.

The Saudi Arabian was not to be denied for long, however, and another of his long-range attempt from the left secured his team the equaliser. Then Al Fraidi, who had come on for Mohammad Al Shlhoub in the 62nd minute, set off wild celebrations on the Saudi bench with the winning goal in the 72nd minute.