Chelsea boss Antonio Conte calls for more of the same after thrashing

Antonio Conte oversaw an impressive Chelsea performance at Brighton. (AP)
Updated 20 January 2018
0

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte calls for more of the same after thrashing

LONDON: Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has called on his players to maintain the form they showed during their 4-0 thrashing of Brighton until the end of the season to ensure a top-four finish.
The Blues were brilliant as they eased past the hosts going 2-0 up after just six minutes through an Eden Hazard strike and a wonder goal by Willian. They then doubled their lead in the second-half thanks to another Hazard strike and a Victor Moses goal.
It was an impressive display from the defending Premier League champions who looked close their best at the Amex Stadium and underlined just what they can do when on song.
And Conte was very happy with the performance.
“It was an important performance. We started very well and scored quickly, with good combinations,” the Blues boss said.
“We started with a lot of worries, for injuries and suspensions, but the response of the team was incredible. I am very happy for this. Another clean sheet.
“Today it was a really good performance of the team. We moved the ball quickly, we tried to find the players between the lines, to have good combinations.
“I saw important things. Now we have to continue.”
It has been a tough season both for Conte and Chelsea. Although they lie in third spot in the table performances this season have, at times, been patchy with rumors rife that Conte is looking to leave Stamford Bridge come the summer. But from the opening seconds against Brighton the visitors looked every inch like defending champions. Hazard thumped the ball home from close range to net his 100th career league goal in the third minute.
Hazard was also involved in the second goal only three minutes later as some intricate link play ended with Brazil midfielder Willian producing a venomous right-footed shot that gave Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan no chance.
Brighton’s Ezequiel Schelotto had two penalty appeals turned down and Davy Propper headed against the post for the home team before Chelsea struck again with late goals from Hazard and Moses.
Hazard ran the game and showed exactly why Real Madrid are rumored to be interesting in taking the Belgian to the Bernabeu at the end of the season.
“It’s my job (scoring goals), that’s why I like to play football,” said Hazard.


Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

Updated 14 August 2018
0

Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

  • Young Falcons hopeful of a semifinal spot.
  • Under-23 players keen on making a name for themselves in Indonesia.

JAKARTA: There is a widely held belief that to succeed in sport, you must start early.
Officials from the Saudi Arabia National Olympic Committee will be hoping it rings true this month as the Kingdom’s Under-23 football team prepares to prematurely kick-off its Asian Games campaign this afternoon in Jakarta, three days before the continent’s largest multi-sport competition officially begins.
Similar to the Olympics, the football tournament starts before the opening ceremony and finishes on the competition’s final day, Sept. 2. The fledgling Young Falcons face Iran today at the 28,000-capacity Wibawa Mukti Stadium in the Indonesian capital.
The Saudi NOC have brought a delegation of 169 athletes, including eight females, and will compete across 22 disciplines, including athletics, shooting, taekwondo and volleyball. The three-week Asian Games operate both as a continental precursor and, at times, a qualifying tournament for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Young Falcons made their football debut at the Asian Games in South Korea four years ago, reaching the quarterfinals in Incheon, before losing to Iraq. Their regional neighbors were inspired by legendary striker Younes Mahmoud, who had been included as one of Iraq’s three over-age players and scored twice in a 3-0 win.
Yet the impact of Mahmoud in Korea has not influenced the team’s selection. With the Saudi Pro League starting next week, coach Saad Al-Shehri has opted to forego athletes older than 23, instead selecting a squad consisting primarily of Al-Ahli development players and a smattering of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq-based youths.
“We haven’t brought any overage players because we are playing here as preparation for the U23 Asian Cup, which will offer qualification for Tokyo 2020,” said Faisal Almarashdi, a spokesman for the team.
“We have brought to Indonesia only players who are 21 or under as they will all be eligible for Tokyo. Many have already played at the Under-20 World Cup under coach Saad, so there was never any discussion to use the three allocated over-age slots.”
Abdullah Otayf is the model example of how Asian Games experience can help a young career. Four years ago, the deep-lying midfielder was part of the squad that traveled to Korea. This summer he was an integral part of the Green Falcons side that played at the World Cup in Russia. 
With national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi following the competition from afar, there will be chances to catch the eye for the likes of striker Haroune Camara and midfielders Abdullah Yahya Magrshi and Ali Hassan Al-Asmari ahead of January’s Asian Cup. Both midfielders have already made their full debuts for Ahli and featured in the Jeddah club’s Champions League campaign last season, while Al-Qadisiyah’s Camara was included in Pizzi’s provisional World Cup squad before being cut from the final 23.
“These Asian Games are very important for the young players involved,” Almarashdi added.
“They are the future of the senior team so if they play well here and at the U23 Asian Cup then, we hope, they will go to Tokyo 2020. From then on the pathway to the senior team is already very clear.”  
Much like the seniors, the U23 side is both short and slight, with only two of the 10 midfielders and forwards standing above 5 foot 8 (172m). Today’s opponents Iran are not only taller and more physical, they also have, in Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjčar, a manager who knows West Asian football after short spells in Qatar and the UAE. In their most recent preparation match, Iran lost 3-2 to China. 
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat the UAE last week in Malaysia following a pair of friendlies against local sides. Today’s match will kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, midday in Saudi Arabia.