Baku, May 11, AZERTAC
Favourites Saudi Arabia booked a ticket for the semi-finals as they defeated hosts Azerbaijan 38-31 in Wednesday's action at the Islamic Solidarity Games men's handall tournament in Baku.
With a team made up of players who competed in this year's World Cup, the Kingdom had no trouble cruising past the hosts as Hisham Alobaidi showed the way with ten goals to take the lead in Group A.
The home side lacked the efficiency to disturb a team that held its own against heavyweights Germany (38-24) as well as future semi-finalists Croatia (28-23) at the worlds and keeper Mohammad Alsalem was on form with twelve saves.
Maksim Butenko, who scored 11 against Pakistan in the competition's opener, struggled to find his best form and could only find the back of the net once with a first half free-throw.
In the other Group A game, Algeria bounced back with a 47-24 win over Pakistan, just one day after a crushing defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabia.
Goals from El Hadj Abderrahmane Feredj (8) and Oussama Djemaa (7) gave the title holders a decent cushion early on but the Desert Foxes didn't slow down and the game ended in a rout against the tiring Pakistanis.
"We arrived late in Baku through Doha where we had to wait for 13 hours," said assistant coach Javed Iqbal.
"We didn't really sleep well in the past two days and those early games didn't help as we had to wake up at what amounts to 3:00am for us," he added.
Algeria lock horns with hosts Azerbaijan on Thursday while Pakistan take on Saudi Arabia.
In Group B, favourites Turkey struggled to see off Iraq 35-33 and only made sure of victory when Iraq had two men sent off in the final 15 minutes.
This second straight victory moved the Turks one step closer to ensuring a ticket for the next round, ahead of Thursday's clash with Jordan.
Morocco then made up for their opening defeat by besting Jordan 27-16 thanks to seven goals from left back Mohamed Rachid Hamed.
"We got our revenge after that initial defeat. We got the win we wanted, it was important if we want to reach the semi-finals," said captain Youssef Kossai.
"We took over early on and managed to stay focused the whole time. Now, we just need to win tomorrow," he added.
On Thursday, for Matchday 3, Iraq and Morocco go head to head, hoping to book their ticket for the semi-finals while leaders Turkey face Jordan.
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