10 October 2014 21:20
Luis Suarez played a leading role on his return to international action as Uruguay drew 1-1 with Saudi Arabia in a friendly on Friday.
The Barcelona man was initially banned from “all football-related activity” following a bite on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup in Brazil back in June.
After that sanction was reduced on appeal it was decreed that Suarez could feature in friendly action, and this clash in Jeddah marked his first appearance for the national team since his altercation with Chiellini in Natal.
Suarez had a crucial hand in Uruguay’s goal on Friday, thumping a sublime volley which ricocheted off the woodwork and was diverted into his own net by Hassan Muath Fallatah.
The 27-year-old had previously played a full 90 minutes for Barcelona’s Under-23 side last month, but he was withdrawn after 70 minutes of this encounter.
Suarez had a chance to claim a goal for himself shortly before he was taken off, but he was denied by a fine save from Waleed Abdullah as he attempted to round the goalkeeper.
And Saudi Arabia clinched a draw in dramatic circumstances when substitute Naif Hazazi headed home in the 90th minute to deny Suarez and Uruguay victory.
Though the hosts struck late, they had threatened throughout, Nasser Al Shamrani prodding off target as early as the third minute.
Uruguay’s best opening of the first half fell to Jonathan Rodriguez, who headed namesake Cristian’s clipped left-wing cross into the side-netting at the back post.
Al Shamrani fired narrowly wide of the right-hand upright as the hosts continued to threaten and Yahya Al Shehri struck the post from close range after pouncing on a loose ball inside the area.
Tempers briefly flared in first-half stoppage time after Mustafa Al Bassas’ heavy challenge on Alvaro Pereira, which earned a booking from referee Jameel Juma Abdulhusain Mohamed.
Two minutes after the interval, a moment of magic from Suarez gave Uruguay the lead.
The Barcelona man got on the end of Nicolas Lodeiro’s lofted free-kick and struck a sweet first-time volley which crashed off the base of the left-hand upright and cannoned into the shins of the unwitting Fallatah running back towards his own goal.
Saudi Arabia responded strongly, Abdullah Al Zoari heading narrowly over from a corner before Fallatah tested Fernando Muslera with a swerving shot as he looked to atone for his earlier mishap.
Mathias Corujo lashed an effort wide for the visitors as the game began to open up, and Suarez was denied by the onrushing Abdullah when sent clean through in the 66th minute.
A combination of Abdullah and Osama Hawsawi somehow scrambled the ball away as substitute Diego Arismendi looked to pounce from point-blank range.
With five minutes to go, Saudi Arabia looked to have wasted their opportunity to rescue a draw when Hazazi headed too close to Muslera from six yards out but in the final minute the striker got his head on another delivery from the right and glanced the ball beyond a motionless goalkeeper.