Saudi Arabia beat Algeria to boost World Cup preparations

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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
Updated 11 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia beat Algeria to boost World Cup preparations

  • Al-Faraj and Al-Shehri on target for Juan Antonio Pizzi's side
  • The Green Falcons are in action against Greece on Tuesday

CADIZ: A powerful free-kick from Salman Al-Faraj and a cool late finish from Yahya Al-Shehri proved enough to hand Saudi Arabia a much-needed friendly win over Algeria at the Estadio Ramón de Carranza in southern Spain.
With just one win from four games since taking charge late last year, coach Juan Antonio Pizzi knew the importance of victory against a team that finished bottom of its African World Cup qualifying group and who were operating without their overseas players. His predecessor and Argentine compatriot, Edgardo Bauza, was dismissed after five matches.
Pizzi made five changes to the team that started the 4-0 defeat to Belgium in March, with Abdullah Al-Mayouf favored in goal and Osama Hawsawi and Yasir Al-Sharani returning to defence. Al-Faraj, making his first international appearance since suffering a muscle injury in March, joined Hattan Bahbri, the replacement for Fahad Al-Muwallad who had made his La Liga debut just 48 hours earlier with Levante.
The Argentine led Chile to Copa America glory in 2016 with a work ethic built around relentless pressing. His Green Falcons showed brief, early glimpses of a similar intensity, swarming the ball and making it difficult for their opponents to create anything of substance. A criticism often levelled at the Saudi defence, however, is a tendency to switch off at key moments and Saeed Al-Mowallad was guilty inside the first 10 minutes. The Al-Ahli full-back was caught napping to allow Abdennour Belkheir sneak in for a free header, but the Algerian forward failed to hit the target.
The pace and movement of Belkheir continued to cause problems for the Saudi backline and he appeared to have earned his team a penalty when he went to ground in the 22nd minute. The Spanish referee waved play on, however, and it would prove a crucial as Saudi, perhaps stirred by the decision, quickly drove forward. Al-Nassr’s Mohammed Al-Sahlawi tried to turn on the edge of the area, but was bundled over and this time the official showed no hesitance in awarding a free-kick.
Al-Faraj, who had scored only twice before for his country, stepped up and calmly drilled low into the far corner to give Pizzi’s side a lead for the first time since his first match in charge against Moldova in February.
Algeria faded after conceding, but Saudi failed to make the most of their dominance. Al-Jassem elected to shoot from distance when Al-Sahlawi was screaming for a pass; Al-Dawsari beat a high-line only to run out of gas and lose possession; and Bahberi was glad to see the lineman’s flag raised after failing to hit the target from just a few yards out.
They were running riot without ever really testing Toufik Moussaoui in the Algeria goal, the nadir arriving when Al-Jassem broke through the middle and found his teammates outnumbering the Algeria defence four-to-two. It looked certain the Green Falcons would double their lead, but instead, having picked out Al-Faraj, the Hilal midfielder made a rare mistake and the ball was cleared.
Both sides made wholesale substitutions during the second period, which affected the flow of the game. As the tempo dipped, however, the number of late challenges grew, forcing the referee to show seven yellow cards, including to Al-Sharani and Al-Jassem.
With just eight minutes remaining, substitute Yahya Al-Shehri settled the tie. Played in behind a tiring Algerian defence, the stocky Leganes midfielder shaped to fire high, but showed the composure his teammates had been so lacking to slot calmly past Moussaoui at his near post.
Pizzi will hope some of that poise can be shared among his squad before their next match with Greece on Tuesday.

Saudi: Al-Mayouf; Al-Mowallad (Al-Burayk, 85), Hawsawi, Othman, Al-Sharani; Al-Otayf (Jahsan, 88), Al-Dawsari (Al-Shehri, 70), Al-Faraj (Kanoo, 87), Al-Jassem (Al-Khaibri 79), Bahberi (Al-Kowaikbe, 70) ; Al-Sahlawi

Algeria: Toufik Moussaoui; Azzi (Arous, 65), Chafaï, Benmoussa, Naamani; Lakroum (Bougelmouna, 59), Boukhanchouche (Benkhemassa, 45), Bennacer (Zouari, 77), Abid; Belkheir (El-Orfi, 54); El Ouazani (Bourdim, 72)


Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

Updated 20 January 2019
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Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

HUDDERSFIELD: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was far from satisfied despite a 3-0 win away to Huddersfield Town on Sunday that saw his side cut Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points.
Liverpool’s compelling 4-3 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday heaped huge pressure back onto reigning champions City but they were rarely troubled by a Town side that look a certain bet for relegation this season.
City’s first goal, a deflected strike for Danilo in the 18th minute, brought up their 100th goal of the season in all competitions before Raheem Sterling scored a diving header from Leroy Sane’s cross in the 54th minute and Sane himself made it 3-0 with a calm finish just two minutes later.
For Guardiola, it should have been an afternoon of enjoyment as his side again proved their willingness to push Liverpool all the way this season.
The City manager, however, has forged a footballing reputation based on sublime performances as well as ruthless goalscoring and, on that basis, his team’s showing in West Yorkshire was not a success as the visitors never really clicked into gear on a day against a Huddersfield side who had parted company with manager David Wagner on Monday.
“During the season you have these kind of games,” Guardiola said. “It is important to win. We have scored many goals in all competitions.
“(But) the way we played, we didn’t deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future.
“We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it’s difficult.
“Today we are happy we have won but after immediately we have to analyze. During the season you have games when maybe you are not in the top level and it is important to win these games.”
Although City’s fans were happier than their manager following this result, Guardiola could at least take some heart from the fact his side again refused to blink first in the race for the title.
For the second consecutive week, City kicked off knowing Liverpool had already won their weekend fixture and that, consequently, the onus was back on his players to secure three points as well.
Once again, Guardiola’s side managed to do that following up the 3-0 victory over Wolves with this showing and the City manager was more than happy to remind everybody that silverware is not handed out for another four months.
“One team has been better but we’re in January and there’s many more games to play,” he added.
“You don’t win or lose the Premier League in January. We have to focus on what we have to do. If Liverpool win, we have to win. And if Liverpool lose then we also have to win.”
This match was a baptism of fire for Huddersfield’s caretaker boss Mark Hudson and while the Terriers showed impressive fight to inspire some hope this season, this defeat still left them 10 points adrift of safety.
If, as expected, the Borussia Dortmund Under-23 coach Jan Siewert is appointed as Wagner’s permanent replacement, nobody would blame him if he spent his first day in the job preparing for a return to the second-tier Championship next season.
“It’s been a long week,” admitted Hudson.