—- Saudi Arabia marched to a comfortable 2-0 win over nine-man Kyrgyz Republic in Group F of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

A second win on the trot for the three-time champions in front of 39,557 fans confirms their place in the Round of 16, while Kyrgyz Republic remain with no point from two games.

After an intense start, Kyrgyz Republic found themselves in trouble after just nine minutes when they were reduced to 10 men with Aizar Akmatov receiving a red card for a reckless challenge on Sami Al Naji just outside the box.

Mohammed Al Burayk curled the resulting free-kick towards the top corner but goalkeeper Erzhan Tokotaev made a flying save to deny him.

The Green Falcons had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 27th minute when Al Burayk delivered a pinpoint cross from the left for Feras Al Buraikan who was left unmarked but could not direct his header towards the target.

The opening Saudi goal arrived in the 35th minute when after Abdulelah Al Malki’s powerful strike from long range cannoned off the post, Saud Abdulhamid was first to the rebound, crossing for Mohammed Kanno who converted it home at the far post.

The woes of Kyrgyz Republic were compounded five minutes into the second half following another heavy challenge, this time from Kimi Merk on Hassan Tambakti saw the 19-year-old Kyrgyz midfielder receiving his marching orders, while the Saudi defender hobbled off, being replaced by Saleh Al Shehri.

Kanno nearly doubled his tally in the 72nd minute when he rose unopposed to head Al Burayk’s delivery from the corner past the Kyrgyz goalkeeper, only to be denied by the post.

Five minutes before the end of 90, Saudi Arabia got their second goal of the night through substitute Faisal Al Ghamdi. The young midfielder fired an effort from the edge of the area that proved too powerful for goalkeeper Tokotaev whose attempt to punch it away ended up with the ball in the back of the net instead.

Abdulrahman Ghareeb and Ali Al Bulayhi could have repeated their goal-scoring heroics from the first match against Oman late on. The former curled a shot from inside the box towards the far corner, and the latter powered a header from close range, only for both to see their efforts saved by Tokotaev.

Saudi Arabia round-off their group stage journey at Education City Stadium on Thursday with a top-of-the-table clash with Thailand who currently sit second with four points, while Kyrgyz Republic’s slender hopes of sealing one of the best-ranked third place teams will depend on them getting a win against Oman and other results going their way.