Bayern cruise, Porto gain slight advantage
Bayern cruise, Porto gain slight advantage
Another former European champion Porto also won, inflicting Spanish side Malaga’s first defeat of their maiden Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win in Portugal to extend their unbeaten run to 20 matches in all competitions.
Bayern took a firm grip of their match early on with goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller, and although compatriot Lukas Podolski reduced the deficit, Croatian Mario Mandzukic added a deserved third late on to leave Arsenal staring at an eighth successive season without a trophy.
It will heap even more pressure on their manager Arsene Wenger, who had gone into the match on the back of an FA Cup exit to Championship side Blackburn Rovers and a tetchy performance in the eve-of-match press conference.
However, the esoteric Frenchman was gracious in defeat, accepting that they had been well beaten and that they faced a tough task to overcome the deficit in the second leg.
“I cannot hide from the fact that it will be extremely difficult in the return leg,” he said.
“But we just have to play to our best and hope that gives us some confidence.
“We played against a side that had no doubts about itself. We saw that their players are confident, which is not the case with our players but things can turn around rapidly.”
His Bayern counterpart Jupp Heynckes praised his side’s performance and was especially complimentary about Mandzukic’s display.
“We scored two goals really quickly, which made things easier for us,” said Heynckes, who guided Bayern to the final last season only to lose to Chelsea on penalties.
“We were really good in the first half. After the break we saw that Arsenal are a good side and we had to work hard. But even under pressure we held our nerve,” added the veteran coach, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola at the helm next season.
Porto just about deserved their victory over a Malaga side that played safe, but despite Joao Moutinho’s goal for the hosts, the Spanish side can approach the return leg optimistic of extending their dream run.
Porto’s Argentinian playmaker Lucho Gonzalez said that, while the performance was satisfying, a second goal would have given them more to play with.
“Our first objective was to win, the second not to concede a goal,” he said.
“We achieved both and we are happy. We played really well and it is a pity that we didn’t score a second goal.”
Malaga’s Chilean coach Manuel Pelligrini said that each person was entitled to their own opinion as to whether they had done well to come away only one goal down.
“Whether it is a good result or not we will see at the end of 180 minutes,” he said.
“To lose is never good but losing by just the one goal is the best thing we can take from the game.
“We can still turn the tie around at La Rosaleda. We have demonstrated this year that we can compete with anyone,” added Pellegrini.
Saudi Arabia out to make Kingdom 'proud' and repay faith of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
- Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side are in Zurich on a three-week training camp
- SAFF have left no stone turned in preparing the team for their first appearance at the finals since 2006
RIYADH: The president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) acknowledges there will be added scrutiny on the Green Falcons when they kick off this summer’s World Cup against hosts Russia in the opening game, but is confident the players can overcome any first-night nerves and rise to the challenge.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side are in Zurich on a three-week training camp as they start to fine-tune preparations ahead of the first game on June 14. The Argentine coach has taken 28 players with him, but must whittle the squad down to 23 by June 4.
SAFF have left no stone turned in preparing the team for their first appearance at the finals since 2006, sanctioning five training camps and arranging nine friendlies, several against high-profile opposition. Their final three games are against sides with top 20 FIFA’s rankings, a deliberate strategy to ensure they are not undercooked heading into Group A games against Russia, Uruguay and Egypt.
“We are at a critical stage of our preparations, one that needs concentration and discipline, especially as we face three strong teams in Italy, Peru and Germany,” said president Adel Ezzat in a video on the federation’s Twitter account. “Our objective is to be on form by June 14 when the eyes of the world will be on us in the opening match. We have a bright history in the World Cup and Asian Cup, so it’s our duty to live up to that reputation. I would like to address all Saudi fans, whether they will be watching the games on TV or from the stadiums in Russia: They should pray for the players. The players are our brothers and sons, and we should all love our Saudi national team. I urge the fans and the media to be united around the national team.”
Ezzat said the players have been energised and inspired by a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before they left for Switzerland. The crown prince demonstrated his commitment to the game in the Kingdom by this week vowing to cover all external debts totalling SR1.277 billion (around $340 million) owed by Saudi Pro League clubs.
“We are optimistic after the historic meeting between the players, staff and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Ezzat. “The meeting set the tone for the final stage of preparations, and the players are up for the challenge of meeting His Highness’ expectations.
“We are grateful for Prince Mohammed for his constant support and generosity toward Saudi football, be it the national team, clubs or the league. It’s our duty to repay the faith of our leaders. This is something that drives us forward and I’m fully confident in the players’ ability to do us proud in Russia.”