Soccer-Renard relieved as Saudi Arabia remain unbeaten

Gulf Cup - Final - Bahrain v Saudi Arabia

(Reuters) - Herve Renard was relieved his Saudi Arabia side were able to overcome an unconvincing start to secure a 5-0 win over Palestine on Tuesday and maintain their unbeaten record in the second round of Asia's World Cup qualifying campaign.

Saleh Al Shehri scored twice while Yasir Al Shahrani, Fahad Al Muwallad and Salem Al Dawsari were also on target for the three-time Asian champions, who moved top of Group D.

The win was Saudi Arabia's third in five games and Renard's side lead Uzbekistan by two points with both nations having played five times.

"We didn't start the match well," said Renard.

"There was an opportunity for our opponent at the start of the match and they didn't take advantage of it, fortunately. We scored two goals in the first half, which ended well.

"I congratulate the players on their performance, especially the young ones.

"Our opponent relied on long passes and we are not very strong in dealing with these cases, but we performed well."

Saudi Arabia had to wait until the 37th minute before Al Shahrani headed the home side into the lead and Al Muwallad doubled their advantage from close range six minutes later.

Al Shehri netted twice in six minutes early in the second half and Al Dawsari completed the scoring from the penalty spot two minutes from time.

Only the winners of the eight groups in the second round of Asia's qualifying tournament for next year's World Cup are certain to advance to the third phase. They will be joined by the four best runners-up.

Asia has four guaranteed places available at the World Cup finals, with a potential fifth spot on offer via an international playoff.

Saudi Arabia will host the remaining matches in Group D in June.

(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Peter Rutherford)