Costa Rica beat Saudi Arabia after protest at St James' Park

Costa Rica beat Saudi Arabia after protest at St James' Park
Costa Rica defeated Saudi Arabia 3-1 at Saudi-owned Newcastle United's St James' Park, amid fan protests against use of the stadium by the Gulf state.
2 min read
09 September, 2023
Costa Rica were runaway 3-1 winners on the night against a lacklustre Saudi side [Getty]

Costa Rica earned a 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia at St James' Park in a friendly on Friday after a pre-match protest by Newcastle United fans over the use of the stadium by the Saudi team.

The game also saw the return of Ticos captain Keylor Navas. The former Real Madrid goalkeeper had not played for Costa Rica since last year's World Cup in Qatar, missing a couple of friendlies and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.

The Central Americans took the lead in the 12th minute when defender Francisco Calvo headed home Joel Campbell's cross.

Manfred Ugalde made it 2-0 just past the half-hour mark with another header in the six-yard box from Jimmy Marin's pass.

Saudi Arabia, who are now managed by former Italy coach Roberto Mancini, pulled one back in the 68th minute when Ali Al-Bulayhi headed in Feras Al-Brikan's pass from a corner.

Live Story

However, they could not find the equaliser and Costa Rica wrapped up the win when Randall Leal fired home in the 89th.

"Great work by the whole team and good win, it's always nice to play again," said Navas on social media.

Costa Rica interim coach Claudio Vivas told ESPN: "Keylor Navas has a very distinguished career, playing for Real Madrid is important, it's not for just anyone. He's a great goalkeeper, he has a lot to give us, let's celebrate that we can have him,"

Costa Rica will next face the United Arab Emirates in a friendly in Croatia on Tuesday.

A group of Newcastle fans protested before the match against the use of St James' Park by Saudi Arabia, who will play again at the stadium on Tuesday versus South Korea.

Newcastle's majority shareholder is Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and critics argue that the buyout of the club amounts to sportswashing by a regime keen to improve its image.

The two friendly games form part of the Saudis' preparations for the AFC Asian Cup to be held in Qatar in January 2024. Saudi Arabia won the last of their thee Asian Cup titles in 1996.