Match Day 4 was a continuation of a return to normal for the favorites. With two matches on the docket, the opening fixture proved to be anxiety ridden for fans of Iraq. The second match could not have gone more according to script for Saudi Arabia.
Iraq Squeak By
If you took a glance at the Match Day 2 & 3 write up, we provided a small preview of today’s action along with our best bet for the day. Did you miss it? Early on you would have been glad if you had as Vietnam was out to shock the world. Iraq was caught in between a rock and a hard place after carelessly giving up possession in their own end. Vietnam pounced quickly and provided a perfectly weighted through ball forcing Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hassan to come off his line. The last Iraqi defender would get himself between the Vietnamese striker and the ball, however, Ali Atiyah would put it in his own net to give Vietnam the lead.
Later in the first half Iraq would continue to trade spells of possession with Vietnam, while getting the lesser of the quality opportunities. Iraq would break through in the 34th minute after Mohanad Kadhim took the ball off the foot of the last Vietnamese defender and dribbled around to curl a right footed effort past the keeper. In the 42nd minute, Vietnam would strike again as Phong Nguyen would finish off a rebound off Hassan to put Vietnam in the lead going into half time.
Iraq was quick to answer the bell in the second half, dominating the play early. In a series of events that can best be described as your typical FIFA 19 chaos, Humam Tariq would benefit from a series of blocked shots and a goalkeeper off of his line in the 60th minute. Tariq would find the loose ball and fire a blast at the empty net that took a deflection off a Vietnamese defender.
Vietnam would do it all could to hang on as Iraq threw wave after wave of attack on their goal. After successfully defending for 30 minutes, a last gasp attempt to control the ball outside of the box by Safaa Hadi earned him a foul drawn against the Vietnamese goal scorer Nguyen. It would be the left back from Atalanta Ali Adnan who would score a world class free kick to seal the three points for Iraq. Just watch for yourself below.
Saudi Arabia Start Strong
Saudi Arabia would not get caught up in the non-sense of underdogs putting up valiant efforts during their opening fixture. The odds on favorites to win the group, made little effort in putting North Korea to bed. After scoring two goals in the opening half, Han Kwang-Song would find himself in the crosshairs of the referee after a foolish foul in the 44th minute. Having already been booked, Kwang-Song was sent to the locker room early and forced North Korea to complete the match with ten men.
North Korea would do their best down a man to hold Saudi Arabia at bay for the next 25 minutes. The floodgates would buckle in the 70th minute as Salem Al-Daswari finished a wonderful left-footed effort freezing the North Korean goal keeper. A fourth goal was added in the 87th minute after a dreadful display of defending allowed Fahad Al-Muwallad to walk in on goal against the keeper unmarked.
Preview of Match Day 5
Match Day 5 will be the completion of the opening round of fixtures for the 2019 Asian Cup. The Samurai Blue will take on Turkmenistan to open Group F play. The mid-morning contest has Uzbekistan taking on Oman. Group E closes their opening round as Lebanon take on Qatar. While the first match should definitely be one-sided (Japan favored by 2.5 goals at -140), Oman and Lebanon are two underdogs that should not be written off. Lebanon is fresh off the heels of a 13 game winning streak and Oman are the most recent Gulf Cup champions. I fully expect both teams to at least come away with a draw in their opening fixtures. You can get Lebanon at +0.5 at +115 and Oman +0.5 at -130.