Juan Antonio Pizzi on the defensive after Saudi Arabia draw with Bolivia

Updated 11 September 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi on the defensive after Saudi Arabia draw with Bolivia

  • Green Falcons let two-goal lead slip against South Americans.
  • Questions once again asked of Saudi Arabia defence with the Asian Cup just months away.

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi admitted that his team has defensive issues after the Green Falcons threw away a 2-0 lead against Bolivia to draw 2-2 in Monday’s friendly in Riyadh.

 

There were promising signs for fans of the Green Falcons in the side’s first match since this summer’s World Cup as Yehya Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari put the hosts ahead and in control inside the first 10 minutes but
Bolivia earned a share of the spoils through a Jhasmani Campos strike and a late penalty from Marcelo Martins.

It was a frustrating evening for fans at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, who included female supporters for the first time watching the national team. Coach Pizzi had talked of carrying on from the World Cup which may have started with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Russia but ended on a high thanks to a deserved 2-1 victory over Egypt.  

Saudi Arabia had been on course for a comfortable and morale-boosting win against a team ranked 11 places higher in FIFA’s ranking at 59 only for defensive
errors to haunt them. Pizzi was candid about the problems at the back and pledged to do everything possible to solve them by the time the Asian Cup kicks off in January, when the team take on Lebanon, Qatar and North Korea in their group.

“We have conceded a lot of goals since I started with the Saudi team so I think it is fair to say that we have some defensive weaknesses,” said Pizzi, who was appointed last November. The Argentine is ready to head to the training pitch to iron out the flaws. 

“The solution to the problem is to work and work and work, and that is what we will do in the coming weeks and months. We will work with the players to increase defensive cohesion and then prepare for the Asian Cup in the best way possible.”

The coach, whose hopes of taking Chile to the World Cup were dealt a huge blow with a defeat to Bolivia in September last year, was keen, however, to point out the positives in the display. 

“Overall, the game was generally good. We started well but Bolivia managed to get a goal in the first half that owed a lot to luck and then they scored again late in the game.”

Pizzi called upon his players to return to their clubs and work hard in the Saudi Pro League in the coming weeks and months. 

“The players who were called
up in the last camp we had were chosen because they had performed well in the league. I will probably do the same again, so I will be keeping a very close eye on the league. Any player can join the team if he is playing well for his club and is ready for the step.”

Young striker Haroune Camara impressed in his first start for the national team and Fahad Al-
Muwallad and Salem Al-Dawsari also looked sharp in attack.

“Camara was with us at a Spanish training camp before the World Cup though was not at his best at the time,” Pizzi said. 

After a fine display at the Asian Games with the Under-23 team, the 20-year-old did enough to earn a place in the squad. 

“His performance was convincing and his future looks bright as he develops in the coming period.”

An official at the Saudi Arabia Football Federation shared the general frustration, but pointed out that there is still some time before the Asian Cup next year. 

“This is just the first game and the season has just started,” the
official told Arab News. 

“A win would have been great, but there were some positive signs especially in attack against a strong South American team. There is still time to go before the Asian Cup and this was just the first game in preparation.”

The Green Falcon’s preparations for the Asian Cup continue in October with a prestige friendly against five-time world champions Brazil in Riyadh. The team will then travel to Amman in November to take on Jordan.


VAR denies Manchester City again in latest wild Premier League match with Tottenham

Updated 17 August 2019

VAR denies Manchester City again in latest wild Premier League match with Tottenham

  • Gabriel Jesus thought he scored the winner in the second minute of injury time
  • VAR — new to the league this season — ruled the ball reached Jesus off the arm of Aymeric Laporte

LONDON: Four months later, Manchester City was denied another crucial late goal against Tottenham by an intervention from the video assistant referee.
Gabriel Jesus thought he scored the winner in the second minute of injury time in a wild English Premier League match at Etihad Stadium on Saturday when he curled home a finish after the ball landed at his feet following a corner. The Brazil striker waved and danced in front of City’s jubilant fans, unaware the on-field referee had been told the goal was under review.
VAR — new to the league this season — ruled the ball reached Jesus off the arm of Aymeric Laporte as the City defender stretched to head it. Newly implemented rules say a foul should be awarded if a goal is scored from an accidental handball.
The goal was disallowed, much to the anger of Jesus and City’s frustrated fans, and the match finished 2-2. The final whistle was greeted with loud boos inside the stadium as the English champions dropped points in the second match of their title defense.
Back in April, almost the exact same thing happened to City when Spurs visited for a Champions League match. On that occasion, Raheem Sterling had a goal disallowed for offside by VAR in the third minute of injury time, denying City a place in the semifinals.
City manager Pep Guardiola didn’t drop to his knees and look as crestfallen like he did in April. Instead he engaged in conversation with Tottenham counterpart Mauricio Pochettino in the technical area as confusion reigned around him.
“I thought we left that situation against Tottenham in the Champions League last season. But it is the same,” Guardiola said. “The referee and VAR disallow it. It’s the second time, it’s tough. It’s honestly tough.”
Guardiola will wonder how his team didn’t win.
Twice taking the lead in the first half, through Sterling and then Sergio Aguero, City was twice pegged back by Tottenham, first by Erik Lamela and then by Lucas Moura 14 seconds after he entered the field as a substitute.
The diminutive Brazil winger ran straight toward the penalty area to line up for his team’s corner and rose highest — somewhat improbably — to send a glancing header looping into the net in the 56th.
Aguero was substituted soon after that goal and exchanged some strong words on the sideline with Guardiola as he sat down. The pair was seen embracing near the end of the match, however, suggesting they patched up their differences.
The result leaves City two points behind Liverpool, the team expected again to be its biggest rival for the title.
Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1 earlier.
ADRIAN’S CRAZY WEEK
In the space of nine days, Spanish goalkeeper Adrian has made his Liverpool debut as an injury substitute, saved the decisive penalty to win the club the UEFA Super Cup, got injured by a pitch-invading fan, and made an embarrassing error in a Premier League game.
To say it has been a roller-coaster start to life at Anfield would be an understatement.
Adrian, an offseason signing filling in for the injured Alisson Becker, was a doubt for Liverpool’s match at Southampton after a fan slid into the goalkeeper’s ankle while the team celebrated his crucial penalty stop in a shootout win over Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday. He was declared fit on the morning of the match and made some good saves before Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino put Liverpool 2-0 up at St. Mary’s.
Adrian ensured there was a nervy finish when he kicked a clearance straight at Southampton striker Danny Ings and saw the ball rebound into the net in the 83rd.
Liverpool hung on, though, for a second straight win after beating Norwich.
PUKKI PEAKING
Teemu Pukki scored a division-high 29 goals to proper Norwich to the second-tier League Championship title last season.
He cannot stop scoring in the Premier League, either.
After his consolation goal at Anfield on the opening weekend, the Finland striker added another three in dismantling sorry Newcastle as top-flight soccer returned to Carrow Road.
“The guys are creating chances — I could have scored more,” Pukki said.
Newcastle has lost both of its opening games under new manager Steve Bruce.
AUBAMEYANG AGAIN
Another striker to have started the season strongly is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has grabbed winning goals in each of Arsenal’s first two games.
A week after scoring the only goal at Newcastle, Aubameyang led Arsenal to a 2-1 win over Burnley with a shot inside the near post from the edge of the area. He was tied as the top scorer last season with Liverpool attackers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
The standout player for Arsenal, though, was Dani Ceballos, who is on a season-long loan from Real Madrid. He set up both goals — the first was scored by Alexandre Lacazette — and showed the touch and vision Arsenal has been missing since the departure of another Spanish playmaker, Santi Cazorla.
WINS FOR EVERTON, BOURNEMOUTH
Everton and Bournemouth got their first wins after opening the season with draws.
Brazilian winger Bernard scored in the first half to secure a 1-0 victory for Everton against Watford, while Bournemouth built on a second-minute penalty from Josh King and beat Aston Villa 2-1.
Jack Grealish, the Villa captain, has lost a record 20 straight Premier League games, stretching back to when the team was last in the top flight in 2015-16.
Brighton and West Ham drew 1-1 in the other match.