Saudi Arabia World Cup campaign on the brink after Russia rout Green Falcons 5-0

Russia defender Andrey Semenov celebrates his team's fourth goal as Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al-Breik looks on. (AFP)
Updated 15 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia World Cup campaign on the brink after Russia rout Green Falcons 5-0

  • Green Falcons enjoy 61 percent possession but ship five goals
  • The team suffer their second heaviest defeat in World Cup finals history

Saudi Arabia went into the match three places higher than Russia in the FIFA rankings and confident they could get the win that would hopefully set up a place in the knockout stage. 

It took just 45 minutes for both states of affairs to be shown up as fanciful in the extreme. In terms of what Juan Antonio Pizzi would have wanted to avoid in the first half — not giving possession away, remaining calm in defence, and keeping a cleansheet — it is fair to say it could not have gone much worse.

Goals from Yuri Gazinskiy and Denis Cheryshev during the first period laid bare the gulf in class and a Artem Dzyuba strike, another from Cheryshev and a Aleksandr Golovin free-kick in the second period was no more than the hosts deserved. 

The Green Falcons come into the match on the back of three straight defeats — to Germany, Italy and Peru. But there were enough positives from those matches for the side to take the field today hopeful they could upset their Russian hosts. That was not a bad attitude considering Russia went into the clash winless in seven matches. 

But after the opening cagey exchanges — during which neither side committed men forward in any numbers — Stanislav Cherchesov’s side betrayed any nerves they may have been feeling and grew in confidence, finding space between the Saudi Arabia midfield and defence with too much ease. 

If that annoyed Pizzi then there’s little doubt the way the opener came would have dismayed him more. Golovin put in an in-swinging cross that should have been dealt with by the Green Falcons’ defence, but Osama Hawsawi and Co were statuesque as Yuri Gazinskiy headed past the stranded Abdullah Al-Muaiouf in the Saudi goal. 

It was the perfect nerve-settler for the hosts and just the start the cautious Pizzi was wanting to avoid. 

It may have only been the 11th minute but the goal had been coming and soon after Russia almost got a second. Fedor Smolov’s shot was deflected and looped into the air, but Al-Muaiouf managed to claw it away. 

On the odd occasion Saudi Arabia did get into the final third Mohammed Al-Sahlawi looked isolated, in stark contrast to the Russians who attacked on the counter and in increasing numbers. 

The lack of composure on the ball and, even more glaringly, a holding midfielder was all too clear to see. Both combined to gift Russia their two-goal cushion heading into the break. 

The Green Falcons lost the ball in their own half, the hosts broke from deep with Roman Zobnin playing in Denis Cheryshev, who showed two good feet to dink it over the sliding body of Mohammed Al-Burayk before smashing high past Al-Muaiouf. 

It was all too easy for the side that had been written off by a lot of their fans before the kick-off, but the 2-0 scoreline did not flatter the hosts. 

After the break it was much the same story. Saudi Arabia looking comfortable in possession but played everything in front of the Russia backline and were unable to hurt them — a Salman Al-Faraj header that drifted wide of the post the most they had too show for all their forays into the Russian half. 

When substitute Dzyuba headed in Russia's third with just his second touch, the worry was that it would signal for the floodgates to open. Those fears were well founded as, on 90 minutes, Cheryshev found himslef on the edge of the box before hitting an absolutely fine shot on the outside of his foot which flew high into the back of the net.

Just four minutes later Golovin scored with a brilliant free-kick, the ease with which he stroked the ball matched only by the ease with which the Russians found space throughout the 90 minutes.

Saudi Arabia went into the match with hope, they walked off the pitch in despair knowing the second round is all but now out of reach for them. They now have four days to pick themselves up and prepare for their next clash against group favorites Uruguay, who get their campaign started against Egypt today. 


Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

Updated 18 February 2019
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Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

  • Reds boss worried about resurgent German giants ahead of second-round first-leg clash.
  • Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich claims Liverpool are the favorites.

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool side they will have to be at their very best if they are to beat Bayern Munich.
The Reds head into the Champions League clash as slight favorites after months at the top of the Premier League. But having drawn the German giants in the second round, Klopp has told his players they have to keep their feet on the ground worthy could end up out of the competition before it really gets going.
“It’ll be very tough,” there Liverpool manager said.
“(Bayern are) only two points off Dortmund in the domestic league and have been consistent finalists and semifinalists.
“They’re a world class team but at the same time we’re confident we can cause them problems.
“They’ve got world class players so we know how difficult it will be.
“Everyone has to be at 100 percent otherwise we’ll get nothing from the game.
“Having said that we have confidence we have the ability to hurt them, and it’s up to us to show that.”

After a tough start to the season Bayern are up to second in the Bundesliga. 


Liverpool went al the way to the final last year, before losing to Real Madrid. But the momentum created by that surprise run has been maintained in the Premier League and another trip to the Champions League knockout stages.
Bayern currently lie second in the Bundesliga and are starting to look like their old levels agains after a tough start to the season. For Klopp, who managed Dortmund before arriving at Anfield, that could spell trouble for the Reds.
“After six years of pretty much dominating the league it was clear this year was going to be a tougher situation.
“It’s actually still the same, being at the top of the league and still in the last-16 of the Champions League.
“It’s a normal situation with a high quality team.
“Munich’s situation, from my point of view, makes them even more dangerous and even more of a threat from my point of view.
“This is a competition, in Europe, where they always do well.”
For the Germans the role of underdogs suits them perfectly. At least that is according to Joshua Kimmich.
The defender said: “Liverpool are the favorites.
“They have lost one league game all season and have let in only 15 goals. But when you look at us, we are not as consistent as before.”
Before a ball has been kicked Bayern did receive some good news. Winger Franck Ribery was originally left out of the squad to play at Anfield and did not fly with his teammates. But after becoming a father, the Frenchman has now decided to join up with the squad and will be available for selection. One man who definitely will not make the pitch is Jerome Boateng. The central defender is suffering from a stomach virus.
The Bavarians will also have to wait until Tuesdays to determine whether winger Kingsley Coman will be able to play after picking up an ankle injury on Friday.
The Frenchman scored twice but was injured in the final stages of their 3-2 win at Augsburg.

KEY MAN — ROBERTO FIRMINO 

Of Liverpool’s brilliant attacking trio the Brazilian is perhaps the most underrated and important. When he plays well the Reds usually do likewise. He links up the play well, settling up as many goals as he scores. Liverpool will be hoping he turns up with his A-game tonight, because if he does Bayern Munich could be in for a  long night. 

ARAB NEWS PREDICTS

For once Bayern are not having it all their own way in the Bundesliga. But they are improving and giving Borussia Dortmund something to think about in the race for the title. But home advantage will be key and a resurgent Reds will prove too strong for a Bayern defence that has, on occasions this campaign, looked less than watertight. The only question is can Liverpool get a decisive lead and put the tie to bed before the second leg?