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
0

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.”


Hardik Pandya sparks England collapse as India take control of third Test

Updated 58 min 19 sec ago
0

Hardik Pandya sparks England collapse as India take control of third Test

NOTTINGHAM: Hardik Pandya took five wickets and debutant wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant claimed five catches before India’s batsmen piled on the agony for England in the third Test at Trent Bridge.
India were 124 for two in their second innings at stumps on Sunday’s second day, an already commanding lead of 292 runs in a game where victory would see them keep the series alive at 2-1 down in a five-match contest.
Cheteshwar Pujara was 33 not out and India captain Virat Kohli, whose 97 was key to his side’s first-innings 329, eight not out with three days left in the game.
Earlier, England collapsed to 161 all out in a first innings that lasted a mere 38.2 overs.
All-rounder Pandya took five wickets for 28 runs in six overs, including four for eight in 11 balls, as he revelled in the swing-friendly conditions.
This was the second time this year that England had lost all 10 wickets inside a session of Test cricket following an embarrassing 58 all out against New Zealand in Auckland in March.
The irony was that England enjoyed a solid opening partnership to be 54 without loss.
But the exit of left-handers Alastair Cook (29) and Keaton Jennings (20) on that total sparked a collapse that saw eight wickets lost for 74 runs.
Only Jos Buttler’s 39 kept India at bay and denied Kohli the chance of enforcing the follow-on.
Admittedly, the overcast conditions made batting difficult, but England’s top-order problems run deeper than bad luck with the weather.
When Cook edged Ishant Sharma to give Pant an easy first Test catch it meant England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer had made 252 runs in the format at a meagre average of 19.38 this year.
Next ball, Jennings, one of 12 batsmen to have opened in Tests with Cook since Andrew Strauss retired six years ago, was squared up by the recalled Jasprit Bumrah and nicked to Pant.
New batsman Ollie Pope fell for 10 when a genuine glance off Sharma was well caught down the legside by the 20-year-old keeper.
England captain Joe Root only managed 16 before he edged all-rounder Pandya’s first ball low to KL Rahul at second slip.
The umpires called for a review but made a ‘soft signal’ of out and the on-field call was upheld.
Ben Stokes, recalled just days after being acquitted of an affray charge on Tuesday following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September last year, walked out to a few boos from the crowd.
He could only manage 10 before an edge off paceman Mohammed Shami flew waist-high to Rahul.
Chris Woakes had bailed out the top-order with a maiden Test century in England’s innings and 159-run win at Lord’s last week.
But trying to hook Pandya on eight, he got a top edge and Pant, going down the legside, changed direction and lept back to his right before holding a brilliant one-handed catch.
England were now 118 for seven.
The first ball of Pandya’s next over saw Adil Rashid well caught by Pant, two-handed this time.
Stuart Broad survived the hat-trick ball but was still out for a duck, the left-hander plumb lbw to a Pandya inswinger.
At 128 for nine, England still needed two more runs to avoid the follow-on.
They got them when Buttler’s leading edge off Shami just cleared Ajinkya Rahane at cover-point.
Buttler, with just last man James Anderson for company, hooked and drove sixes off Shami and Sharma respectively before he holed out off Bumrah.
India’s openers put on a brisk 60 before Rahul (36) deflected a drive off Stokes onto his stumps and Shikhar Dhawan (44) was stumped by Bairstow off leg-spinner Rashid.
But when play ended in bright sunshine, England needed to surpass the record fourth innings score to win a Test at Trent Bridge, their own 284 for six against New Zealand in 2004, to achieve an improbable success.