Friendly: Saudi Arabia – Macedonia 1:0

Macedonia lost 1:0 on neutral field against Saudi Arabia thanks to a late goal. The referees prevented Macedonia to equalize as the dying moment did not whistle a penalty for a clear handball in the box.

photo by FFM: the Macedonian players during the anthem

21 years after our one and only encounter with Saudi Arabia (1:1 draw – match report), today was played the second, and again on neutral field as back then it was played in France.

Few days before the match on request by Saudi Arabia it was decided that this match will not be a FIFA official and it will be played behind closed doors without live TV coverage. At the time it was planned to be broadcasted on ArenaSport 5, but that did not happen. Since Macedonia traveled with a domestic based squad probably it was good idea the match not to be counted for the FIFA ranking list.

Milevski decided to start with Kristian Naumovski behind the posts, in the defense Vladica Brdarovski, captain Darko Velkovski, Egzon Bejtulai and Kristijan Toshevski, Bojan Dimoski, debutante Ali Adem, Ljupcho Doriev and Ferhan Hasani in midfield, while Besart Ibraimi and the other debutante Metodi Maksimov up front. Macedonia has 9 players at the bench as forward Martin Stojanov did not travel to the UAE due to injury, while no replacement was taken as there was little time to get the necessary visa.

Team photo before kick-off; photo: FFM

Since there was no live TV coverage, what was happening on the field at the Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi we were being constantly updated by FFM’s spokesman Zlatko Andonovski.

In the opening 10 minutes there were no attempts toward both goals. Saudi Arabia had two corners, Macedonia one almost chance from counter attack when Hasani passed to Doriev.

The 12th minute was underway when Abdullah Abdulrahman Al-Hamdan tried from around 20 meters, but over the bar. Five minutes later Nawaf Shaker Al-Abed headed after a corner kick, but Naumovski well saved.

In the 20th minute a 25-meter free kick resulted into 5th corner for the Green Falcons. Two minutes later Toshevski and Hasani combined, but the final pass to Ibraimi was badly done.

In the later minutes there was nothing serious towards both goals, the game play was pretty much on midfield. Near the break Macedonia had most of the possession, but without creating a threat. The Saudis got a gift free kick from the referee in the 42nd minute, but Mohammed Ibrahim Al-Breik sent his shot from 20 meters over the Macedonian goal. In the final minutes of the opening half the Falcons pressed a bit more, but failed to get past central defenders Velkovski and Bejtulai.

Vlatko Stojanovski stepped in to substitute Besar Ibraimi at half-time.

The 50th minute was underway when Velkovski with a long ball found Doriev who made a cross on the far post towards Maksimov, but his shot got blocked. Stojanovski failed to score on the rebound.

A Macedonian mistake lead to Abdullah Abdulrahman Al-Hamdan firing a 20-meter shot, Naumovski punched the ball giving away a corner kick.

During the 58th minute Milevski made 4 changes: Kristijan Trapanovski, Bunjamin Shabani, Ivan Nikolov and keeper Igor Aleksovski (all debutantes) took the place of Hasani, Maksimov, Adem and Naumovski.

Saud Abdulhamid in duel with Kristijan Trapanovski; photo: SAFF

In the 60th minute French coach Hervé Renard, who is in charge at Saudi Arabia, decided to substitute literally the entire team, making a total of 11 changes. Keep in mind that this is a FIFA non official match, so endless changes are allowed.

Milevski decided to give Zija Merdjani his debut appearance as he took the place of Velkovski in the 64th minute.

Newly enter Saudi keeper made good clearance outside his box in the 67th minute before Doriev to fire a shot after Bejtulai beautifully served him. Three minutes later Ayman Yahya Salem Ahmed attempted a precise shot from the edge of the box, but Aleksovski made a good save.

Another debutante, Bojan Ilievski, gets a chance to play as he substituted Toshevski in the 79th minute.

Saud Abdullah Abdulhamid won a duel with Trapanovski and attempted to score in the 81st minute, but Aleksovski denied – corner for the Falcons.

Five minutes from time Saudi Arabia eventually broke the dead lock. Scorer was striker Saleh Al-Shehri who in his 17th match scored his 9th national team goal. He scored on a header as the Falcons seized the occasion when Macedonia was playing with 10 men as Bejtulai was outside the field for medical help.

Scorer Saleh Al-Shehri & Abdulellah Al-Malki celebrate the goal; photo: SAFF

Mladenovski substituted Bejtulai in the 88th minute. Initial reports say Bejtulai is not injured, the substitution was only preventive.

Scandalous refereeing by the match officials. In the last minutes in a same action first Stojanovski was pulled and fouled in the box, while second later a home played saved the ball from the goal line with his has preventing a goal after a shot by Trapanovski. That had to be a red card and a penalty, but the UAE referees clearly already had an agenda on their minds. No wonder the Saudis did not wanted a live broadcast, obviously they had not to lose this game.

The match ended with a 1:0 win for the Saudis.

Match report

Facts about the match:

  • 45th appearance for Darko Velkovski
  • 10th appearance for Vlatko Stojanovski
  • 2nd match against Saudi Arabia, 1st defeat
  • debut appearance for Ali Adem, Metodi Maksimov, Ivan Nikolov, Kristijan Trapanovski, Igor Aleksovski, Bunjamin Shabani, Zija Merdjani and Bojan Ilievski

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