Saudi Arabia. 1
SAUDI ARABIA, having threatened the first major upset of the finals by taking a deserved lead on their tournament debut, were left to reflect on a goalkeeping error which allowed the Netherlands to move to the top of group F.
Only four minutes remained when Mohammed Al Deayea made a hash of Frank de Boer's cross, enabling the substitute Gaston Taument to head into an unguarded net.
The sombreros and Viking helmets Mexico and Norway had brought to the stadium on Sunday had given way to omnipresent orange and the fierce heat to what currently passes for a cool evening. However, it was the small knot of Saudi supporters, some of them reputedly members of the royal family, whose voices were unexpectedly raised in triumph after 18 minutes.
The danger signals had already been there, cavalier Dutch defending repeatedly leaving them exposed to breaks down the flanks. Majid Mohammed, 'the Desert Pele', headed wide after only 40 seconds while Ed De Goey fingertipped away another menacing centre from Abdullah Al Dosari.
Frank Rijkaard wasted one free header and Ronald De Boer's control failed him at the vital moment, though it was hardly against the run of play when Saudi Arabia went ahead. After Wim Jonk's foul on Fahad Al Bishi, the aggrieved midfielder recovered to flight a free-kick which Fuad Amin glanced past De Goey's despairing dive.
The Saudi performance was reminiscent of Cameroon four years ago, a mixture of exuberant attacking and indisciplined defending. The latter cost them dear after 51 minutes. Jonk, receiving from the Nottingham-bound Bryan Roy, was allowed to advance and tee up a 30-yard drive which left Al Deayea groping air.
Ulrich Van Gobbel often had to bail out Ronald Koeman, especially when the Saudis found Hamzeh Falatah, a vigorous replacement for the injured Mohammed. But the second-half pattern was one of persistent, if somewhat laboured, pressure by the Netherlands, which Taument belatedly rewarded .
NETHERLANDS (3-4-3): de Goey (Feyenoord); Koeman (Barcelona); van Gobbel (Feyenoord), F de Boer (Ajax); Rijkaard (Ajax), Jonk (Internazionale), Bergkamp (Internazionale), Wouters (PSV Eindhoven); Overmars (Ajax), R de Boer (Ajax), Roy (Foggia). Substitutes: Taument (Feyenoord) for Overmars, 58;
SAUDI ARABIA (4-4-2): Al Deayea (Al Tai); Al Dosari (Al Ittifaq), Al Khilawi (Al Ittihad), Madani (Al Ittihad), Al Jawad (Al Ahli); Amin (Al Hilal), Al Bishi (Al Nasr), Al Muwallid (Al Ahli), Al Jibreen (Al Riyadh); Mohammed (Al Nasr), Owairan (Al Shabab). Substitutes: Falatah (Al Ohud) for Mohammed, 45; Saleh (Al Ahli) for Owairan, 69; Van Vossen (Ajax) for Roy, 81.
Referee: M Diaz Vega (Spain).Reuse content