Saudi Arabia defeated Croatia 2-0 with strikes from Yasir Alfahmi and Fhad Almuwallad proving the difference in a closely-contested Group D encounter in Armenia.
Croatia assumed offensive control, developing play through the midfield with key talents Filip Ozobic and Zvonko Pamic the distributors. The Southern Europeans first chance on the night came just before a quarter of an hour, when Mario Ticinovic watched his shot rise over the crossbar.
Pamic then served in a fine free-kick effort, but Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Alsdairy was up to the challenge. The midfielder was soon knocking on the door with another, though, and on 22 minutes saw his set-piece fly just over the crossbar when it appeared he had Alsdairy beaten.
It took nearly a half hour for Saudi Arabia to stir-up an attack, but Yasir Alsharani’s solo effort was easily collected by Croatia keeper Matej Delac.
After the restart, the Croatians were begging for a goal, with chances from Andrej Kramaric and Pamic denied by Alsdairy. And the Europeans would be left to rue their missed opportunities, when Saudi Arabia took the lead through Yasir on 54 minutes.
The No20 was given too much space above the area, and his powerful shot took a bounce to offset Matej Delac in goal.
The goal was all the Saudis needed to get their attack underway, and after a missed chance from Yahya Dagriri, the Middle Easterners doubled their lead. On the counter, substitute Fhad combined with Dagriri, and upon receiving the ball back, buried the second of the evening.
With three points in hand, Saudi Arabia will face Guatemala on 3 August, who will surely be looking to heal their wounds after a 5-0 opening loss to Nigeria. The Croatians, on the other hand, face a tough road ahead as they take on the West Africans next.