Juan Antonio Pizzi pleased with Green Falcons' ‘Russia preparation’ win over battling Greece side

Greece's Andreas Gianniotis in action with Saudi Arabia's Fawaz Al-Qarni. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Juan Antonio Pizzi pleased with Green Falcons' ‘Russia preparation’ win over battling Greece side

  • A header from Salem Al-Dawsari and a late Mohammed Kanoo volley were enough to ensure the Green Falcons secured a win over Greece
  • Pizzi, a former striker, had spoken pre-match about the importance of his players showing confidence in front of goal

SEVILLE: Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi declared himself happy with his side’s performance in the 2-0 friendly win over Greece on Tuesday night, although conceded he would have liked to have seen his players capitalize on their numerical advantage following the first-half dismissal of Greek defender Dimitrios Giannoulis.
A header from Salem Al-Dawsari and a late Mohammed Kanoo volley were enough to ensure the Green Falcons secured a second win in six days. However the two goals proved to be Pizzi’s side’s only two shots on target — this despite an understrength Greece team being forced to play the entire second-half with 10-men following Giannoulis’s sending off after a last-ditch foul on Salman Al-Faraj.
“It was a good game and we dominated the ball in terms of possession,” the Argentine coach said. “Of course, the final part of the first-half there was the red card, but even before that we were controlling the game. They managed only one dangerous attack, which hit the post, so overall we are happy with the performance of our players.”
Pizzi, a former striker, had spoken pre-match about the importance of his players showing confidence in front of goal. They have now managed just nine goals in six games and Mohammed Al- Sahlawi, Saudi’s sole striker, has not featured on the scoresheet in 11 calendar months. The Al-Nassr forward showed few signs of breaking his drought inside the Estadio de La Cartuja.
“Of course, normally, when you have a one-player advantage we would expect it to have a big impact, but it wasn’t quite like that,” Pizzi said. “We dominated in the first half and hoped we could have made more of that dominance in the second half, especially against 10 players. Normally, chasing a game with one player less, you have to give an advantage to the opposition, but that didn’t happen so much.”
Yet while Saudi did not test the Greek goalkeeper as often as they should have, they did show a creative side to engineer chances from both flanks. Yahya Al-Shehri, Al-Faraj and Yasser Al-Shahrani all enjoyed plenty possession, but they could rarely work a shot at goal. Greece finished the match with more shots at goal and more shots on target than their dominant opponents.
Greece had been selected because Pizzi believes them to compare physically to Russia, who they will face in the opening match of the World Cup on June 14 in Moscow. Yet with the friendly being played outside FIFA’s international calendar, Greece coach Michael Skibbe had been forced to select only home-based players.
“We chose Greece not exactly for the team, but rather the characteristics of the players and the high-profile of the opponent,” Pizzi said. “Although we knew the two games would not be played on official FIFA dates, we wanted to face such teams because they have the potential to be very powerful. Obviously some of their more high-profile players did not play because they were involved in domestic football in the countries they play in, but we are very satisfied overall with the level and performances this month.”


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.