Benteke ends 14-game goal drought

Crystal Palace’s Zaire-born Belgian striker Christian Benteke celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Crystal Palace at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England, Dec. 16, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2017
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Benteke ends 14-game goal drought

LEICESTER: Christian Benteke ended a 14-match goal drought with a 19th minute header for strugglers Crystal Palace in their Premier League victory at Leicester on Saturday.
It was Palace’s first away goal of the season and they went on to win 3-0 — Benteke creating the second for Wilfried Zaha — to move out of the bottom three.
The 27-year-old Belgian international striker owed his team-mates a goal after controversially missing a last-gasp penalty he should not have taken in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Bournemouth.
Last week, Benteke — who should have allowed Luka Milivojevic to take the spot kick as the Serbian had scored a penalty earlier in the match — apologized to his team-mates and manager Roy Hodgson, admitting he had let them down.
However, the former Aston Villa and Liverpool striker denied his goal on Saturday was a means of repaying his team-mates for the penalty incident.
“Not owed something because we are a team but I just wanted to show that I’m always involved and I will do everything to get back on my form,” Benteke told Sky Sports.
“I’ve been really patient, I’ve been through a hard time but I’m a big believer and I really work hard. I just got what I deserved to get.”
Hodgson, whose side have improved so much under his aegis that for the first time in their history they have gone seven games without defeat in the Premier League, praised Benteke but rued the fact he will miss the next game against Swansea because he is suspended.
“I think it (the goal) will do a lot for Christian Benteke’s confidence, and the crowd really got behind him today, they appreciated his work rate too, and that was fully deserved,” Hodgson told Sky Sports.
“They were singing his name which was fantastic because after missing the penalty he perhaps rightly, many people were saying, got some stick from the crowd.
“But on this occasion they’ve turned very quickly singing his name and that was fully deserved.
“I am surprised though he has picked up five yellow cards (earning the suspension) because he is a gentle giant, so I’d love to know how he picked up the previous cards.”
On the pitch Benteke gave the perfect riposte by creeping in between Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson to head home Andros Townsend’s cross and then stuck his fingers to his ears by way of celebration.


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”