Liverpool's Ox set for first start in League Cup

Liverpool’s coach Juergen Klopp, rear, and player Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, front, walk on the pitch during heavy rainfall after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 18 September 2017
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Liverpool's Ox set for first start in League Cup

LONDON: Liverpool take on Leicester City in the pick of the English League Cup ties this week as manager Jurgen Klopp seeks to eradicate the frustrating defensive blunders dogging his team.
Other all-Premier League ties pit struggling Crystal Palace against Huddersfield, West Brom against Manchester City, Bournemouth against Brighton, while Manchester United face Burton Albion in a low-key start to their title defense.
Liverpool, United and the other teams in European competition only enter the draw for the League Cup, called the Carabao Cup this season after its new sponsors, at the third-round stage
Klopp's Liverpool started the season brightly but have stuttered over the past week, with a 5-0 defeat to Manchester City followed by frustrating draws against Sevilla in the Champions League and Burnley in the Premier League.
The manager is set to make changes for Tuesday’s match at Leicester, handing midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who joined on transfer deadline day from Arsenal, his first start for the club after three substitute appearances.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for Alex because since he has been (here) it has been difficult to train on different things because of game after game after game,” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference on Monday.
“There is no rush but we are in this three-game-a-week rhythm and during the international break he was with the national team.”
“But it is a long-term project so I have no problem. We sat together with him and the analysts and showed him how we want him to play in this position and that position.”
Leicester themselves are looking to kickstart their season after a disappointing start that sees the 2015-16 Premier League champions languishing in 15th place but striker Jamie Vardy, who has a groin problem, is a major doubt.
Also on Tuesday, Roy Hodgson’s Palace play Huddersfield at Selhurst Park after a 1-0 defeat to Southampton saw them become the first Premier League side to lose their first five games and fail to score.
Burton face the daunting task of a trip to Old Trafford on Wednesday, 11 years after they held United to a 0-0 draw at home in the FA Cup before losing the replay 5-0.
Burton boss Nigel Clough hailed the “transformation of the club since the last time we played them as a part-time Conference side,” when he was in his first spell as Burton boss.
“We are only one league behind them after 11 years,” he said. “It’s remarkable how far we have come. The one outstanding memory of the game last time at the Pirelli was when they brought on (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Wayne) Rooney after 60 minutes.
“I think the tie has financially helped the club to build a solid foundation.”
Elsewhere on Wednesday, Arsenal take on Doncaster Rovers at home and Chelsea host Nottingham Forest.


Solid start in Asian Games for ‘work in progress’ Saudi Arabia

Updated 15 August 2018
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Solid start in Asian Games for ‘work in progress’ Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabian coach Saad Al-Shehri promised his U23 side will improve after goalless draw
  • Young Falcons are back in action on Friday, against Myanmar

JAKARTA: Saudi Arabian coach Saad Al-Shehri promised his U23 side will find their scoring boots after twice striking the woodwork on Wednesday night during a scoreless draw with Iran in the opening match of their Asian Games campaign in Indonesia.
At the Wibawa Mukti Stadium, the Young Falcons demonstrated impressive technique, particularly the midfield pairing of Al-Shabab’s Nasser Al-Omran and Al-Ahli’s Yousef Al-Harbi, but ultimately failed to take their chances against an Iran side happy to defend deep and play on the counter-attack.
“We played well, but not very well,” said coach Al-Shehri. “With the players we have, a better result was possible. The first match of any tournament is difficult and we played against a team who have a strong defense and implement fast transitions. We made three or four chances to score, so cannot be too disappointed. This is just the start though and we have at least two more matches. Now we must improve — and we will.”
As early as the sixth minute, Al-Qadisiyah striker Haroune Camara showed glimpses of why national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi had been tempted to take him to the World Cup this summer.
The strapping 20-year-old outmuscled two Iranian defenders before rounding the goalkeeper, but his shot at goal was bundled on to the post by a back-tracking defender. A minute later, Al-Ahli playmaker Ayman Al-Khulaif could have opened the scoring, but saw his tame shot cleared off the line.
“We tried our best, but we did not have luck to win,” said Abdulrahman Ghareeb, the diminutive Al-Ahli midfielder. “I promise in the next two games we will be better and get the results required to progress. We played well and remain confident.”
For all Saudi’s dominance, it was Iran who could have gone in with a goal advantage at the break when a defensive mix-up allowed Mohammedreza Azadi Andizeh to toe-poke past Mohammed Ayami in the Saudi goal. This time it was left to Abdullah Tarmin to clear off the line at the other end. And while Alyami was called into action again early in the second period, with the temperature recorded at 34 degrees Celsius, the intensity unsurprisingly waned as the game went on.
“Always, when the weather is hot like this, it makes problems and we saw that in the second half,” said Al-Shehri.
“We talked to the players at half-time about how to maintain the physical level until the end because if you play against a team like Iran that plays counter attack, you need to be wary of leaving big spaces in behind.”
Al-Shehri’s words seemed to work. In added time, and with a flurry of late substitutes sucking all rhythm out of the contest, a final energetic Saudi attack resulted in Nawaf Al-Habashi latching on to a smart cut-back from the byline and firing toward goal. Once again, however, there was a roadblock in the way as the ball cannoned back off the far post.
“We need to improve the team’s personality and build a good squad for the next tournament, the U23 Asian Cup,” said Al-Shehri. “That is what we are trying to do here. Win games, but also build a team that can qualify for Tokyo 2020.”
There is no time to waste in their quest — the Young Falcons are back in action on Friday, against Myanmar.