An equalising goal in stoppage time from Radhi Jaidi was enough to secure a point for Tunisia in their opening Group H game against Saudi Arabia.
The game finished 2-2, a result which leaves both teams in with a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages, although given the way the match unfolded, Saudi Arabia may view the outcome as two points squandered.
Tunisia had a good claim for a penalty in the opening minutes when Jaziri was bundled over but the referee waved played on. Subsequent replays indicated that Saudi Arabia had been given a fortunate reprieve.
Saudi Arabia’s first real chance fell to Nawat Al Temyat whose free-kick is deflected wide.
On 23 minutes the deadlock was broken in spectacular fashion when Jaziri lashed home an unstoppable volley from 12 yards out to give Tunisia the lead.
Saudi Arabia did manage to get a foothold in the game but their attacks rarely looked threatening and Tunisia, always happy to leave their foot in as a means of breaking up the game, held on comfortably until the break.
Just before half-time Nawaf Al Temyat offered the Saudis some hope with a 30-yard effort that went narrowly wide.
It was not the most compelling halves of the tournament so far, with the referee, Mark Shield, who constantly blew up for niggling fouls, arguably the busiest man on the pitch.
Noor had the Saudi Arabia’s best chance of the game immediately after the break when the ball fell kindly to him in the Tunisian box, but with just the keeper to beat, he sliced his shot wide of the target.
On 57 minutes the Saudis were level. Noor broke down the right flank and delivered an inviting near post cross to Al Kahtani who cleverly lifted his shot over Boumnijel. It was Saudi Arabia’s first goal in open play at the World Cup since 1994.
The goal prompted Saudi Arabia to create a flurry of chances, and at this stage Tunisia, whose midfield had momentarily disintegrated, were content to hang on.
Eventually, Tunisia regained their composure but they were unable to regain the verve of their first half showing and as the clock ticked down to the final whistle, both teams were either too tired or too timid to push for a winner.
However, the introduction of Al Jaber changed all that. Latching onto a through ball from Ameen he advanced on goal and calmly slotted the ball past Boumnijel to put Saudi Arabia ahead.
Sulimani almost extended the lead for the Saudis in stoppage time when his well-struck free-kick hit he woodwork.
However there was more drama to come when centre-half Jaidi made his way into the opposition penalty area and the Bolton defender headed was on hand to head home the equalizer in stoppage time. In so doing, he denied Saudi Arabia what would have been their first victory at the finals since 1994.
It was a frantic climax to what had been an ordinary game and both sides will feel content to have emerged with a point.
Tunisia: Boumnijel, Haggui, Trabelsi, Jaidi, Jemmali, Mnari, Bouazizi, Chedli, Namouchi, Jaziri, Chikhaoui.
Subs used: Nafti 54 (for Bouazizi), Ghodhbane 69 (for Chedli), Essediri 83(for Chikhaoui).
Bookings: Haggui 35, Bouazizi 36, Chedli 65, Chikhaoui 79
Saudi Arabia: Zaid, Dokhi, Tukar, Al Montashari, Sulimani, Al Ghamdi, Noor, Khariri, Aziz, Al Temyat, Al Kahtani.
Subs used: Mouath 66 (for Al Temyat), Ameen 75 (for Noor), Al Jaber 82 (for Al Kahtani)
Referee: Mark Shield (Australia)
Tunisia: Jaziri 23, Jaidi 92.
Saudi Arabia: Y Al Kahtani 57, Al Jaber 82
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