RIYADH - Saudi Arabia staged another late fightback to beat UAE 3-2 on Wednesday and continue their push for a place at their fifth successive World Cup finals. For the second time in as many matches, the tenacious Saudis climbed back from a goal down late in the game to win and go level on points in Group Two with second-placed North Korea. Naif Hazadi again proved to be the Saudis' saviour, beating the keeper to Saleh al-Dosari's cross and heading home the winner with seven minutes left. Hazadi had scored the equaliser to trigger the Saudi comeback in their shock 2-1 win over Iran on Saturday. The win moved the Saudis even with North Korea on 10 points, followed by Iran on six, leaving UAE out of contention on just one point. South Korea lead on 11 after beating North Korea 1-0 earlier in Seoul. The Saudis struck first after only four minutes when Abdoh Autef coolly converted a penalty and they nearly added a second 10 minutes later when Ahmed Ateef struck the post. Playing for pride against their regional rivals, UAE hit back in the 38th minute when Mohamed al-Shehhi headed home Ismaeil Matar's cross. The highly-rated Matar stunned the Riyadh crowd in first-half stoppage time with a spectacular half volley from 35 metres which looped over the keeper and into the net. The Saudis heaped on the pressure after the break and got the equaliser on 70 minutes when Fares Juma, who gave away the first-half penalty, steered his attempted clearance into his own net. The hosts kept up the pressure in the closing minutes and clinched the winner when Hazazi leapt high into the air to head over the stranded keeper and trigger wild celebrations at the King Fahd stadium.
1 April 2009
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