AL-RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Roberto Mancini is no stranger to a dramatic finish.
He was, after all, manager of Manchester City when Sergio Aguero scored his famous stoppage-time winner to seal the Premier League title in 2012. So as Ali Al Bulayhi scored in the sixth minute of added on time and Saudi Arabia came back to beat Oman 2-1 in the Asian Cup on Tuesday, it was straight out of Mancini's playbook.
“It is different. It is a different tournament, different team, different players,” the Saudi Arabia coach said afterward.
Maybe so, but the celebrations it sparked inside the Khalifa International Stadium underlined what it meant to his players and the fans — even if it was only his team's opening game in Group F.
“We have to improve, but we did very well.”
Al Bulayhi's header sparked confusion and chaos as it was first ruled out for offside and then given after a VAR review.
To add to the drama, Oman initially thought the offside call had been upheld and tried to restart the game with a free kick. Then when referee Shaun Evans pointed to the center spot, it sparked jubilation among the Saudi players and substitutes in front of fans as it appeared they believed the fulltime whistle had blown, causing an extended delay before the match could resume.
Mancini might have played it cool afterward, but he looked increasingly heated as his team failed to find an equalizer to Salaah Al Yahyaei’s 14th-minute penalty.
Oman withstood sustained pressure from three-time champion Saudi Arabia until Abdulrahman Ghareeb scored three minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute.
His brilliant individual goal in the 78th minute looked to have salvaged a point.
Starting a run from outside the box, he showed speed to burst away from Oman captain Harib Al Saadi and then dancing feet to beat two players and sweep a low shot past goalkeeper Ibrahim Al Mukhaini.
Al Bulayhi’s winner came in the sixth minute of stoppage time when Ali Lajami flicked on a corner for him to head in from close range.
Supachai Chaided scored both of Thailand's goals in a 2-0 victory over Kyrgyzstan in the other Group F game.
Thailand dominated at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium and could have scored twice early on when Supachok Sarachat hit the post and Suphanat Mueanta had an effort come off the crossbar.
Supachai made his team's superiority count in the 26th minute when he converted on the rebound after Bordin Phala's shot was saved by Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper Erzhan Tokotaev.
Supachai scored his second three minutes after the break with another close-range finish as Kyrgyzstan struggled to deal with a cross into the box.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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