Uruguay and Barcelona star Luis Suarez made his first appearance in a football match since his infamous international ban in the Brazil World Cup game against Italy. Uruguay visited Saudi Arabia and played an international friendly with the hosts at the King Abdullah stadium in Jeddah on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. It was his first international match since the FIFA ban was served on him. Though the referee had missed it during the World Cup game, video footage revealed Suarez clearly biting Italian Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s third group match. On Friday, however, Suarez played an important part in Uruguay’s goal in a strange way as his strike came off the post and was put back into the goal by Hassan Muath Fallatah to score an own-goal. Saudi Arabia were lucky to equalize by a dying seconds’ goal.
The Uruguay striker Suarez had last played for his country on June 24 in their third group match at Brazil World Cup finals, during which he sunk his teeth on the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. Though Uruguay won that game 1-0, they lost Suarez from next match onwards. The biting act went unnoticed by the referee but on a later action, FIFA suspended Suarez for four months from all football related activities and nine competitive internationals. The ban began immediately as Suarez flew home and did not play in Uruguay’s last-16 clash against Colombia, four days later. Incidentally, Uruguay lost that match. Though Suarez’s ban is not over yet, FIFA has allowed him to play international friendlies. On his appeal, the severity of punishment was watered down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. As per the accepted terms released in the reprieve, Suarez could train and participate in football related activities and take part in friendly games. Therefore, he has been available for a while for the friendlies but the coach of the Uruguayan national side Oscar Tabarez decided not to include Suarez for the last month’s friendlies against South Korea and Japan. Yesterday, however, the 27-year-old Suarez got his chance and showed his mettle in the game against the Saudis. Suarez’s ban will end just in time for Barcelona’s El Clasico game against Real Madrid in the La Liga game on October 26 and most likely the striker will play for Barca.
On Friday in his first appearance since the ban, Luis Suarez was instrumental in setting up Uruguay’s only goal in the 1-1 draw against Saudi Arabia at Jeddah. After a goalless first half, Nicolas Lodeiro sent a nice cross from a free-kick that found Suarez in a perfect goal-scoring position in the 47th minute. Suarez struck hard but his volley came off the post and hit Saudi midfielder Hassan Fallatah on his foot and before the hapless player could do anything, the ball went in for an own goal. Uruguay led 1-0 from then onwards. Suarez came off the field after playing for 69 minutes and celebrated his first match for Uruguay by thanking the crowd with an emotionally charged run. Before he was called out by the coach, the Barcelona striker had another close chance but he couldn’t beat Saudi Arabia’s goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation. After Suarez was replaced, Saudi Arabia attacked Uruguayan goal several times but the alertness on the part of Uruguay’s goalkeeper Fernando Muslera kept the home side at bay. In the closing minute of the game, Saudi Arabians got their reward, when substitute Naif Hazazi found the deserving equalizer. It was a high cross from the own-goal scorer Fallatah from wide on the right side to which Hazazi rose to his full height and jumped to send a downward header inside the far post.
Incidentally, around the same time, Italy was playing Azerbaijan in a Euro 2016 qualifying match in Palermo, where Suarez’s victim Georgio Chiellini was in full flow. One could only call it a strange twist of fate as Chiellini scored all the goals in the match that ended 2-1 in Italy’s favor. Chiellini not only scored both goals for his team but also helped Azerbaijan reduce the deficit by an own-goal.
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