Saudi Arabia errors causing problems for Juan Antonio Pizzi

Despite snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat the Chilean coach Pizzi admitted he was happier with the Green Falcons. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Saudi Arabia errors causing problems for Juan Antonio Pizzi

  • The Saudi Arabia coach was speaking having watched his side draw 1-1 with Iraq in Riyadh on Monday
  • Despite snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat the Chilean coach admitted he was happier with the Green Falcons

RIYADH: Juan Antonio Pizzi has told the Green Falcons they can kiss goodbye any chance of Asian Cup glory unless they stop committing sloppy errors.
The Saudi Arabia coach was speaking having watched his side draw 1-1 with Iraq in Riyadh on Monday — a match that once again laid bare the Pizzi’s players’ propensity to gift the opposition goals.
The hosts were facing defeat at the King Saud University Stadium after Muhanad Ali put Iraq ahead after 71 minutes but there was relief in injury time as Abdulaziz Al-Bishi scored deep into added time to salvage a draw.
Despite snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat the Chilean coach admitted he was happier with the Green Falcons after their 2-0 loss at the hands of Brazil on Friday.
“We did not meet the level we have set for ourselves (against Iraq),” Pizzi said. “We were not at the level that we saw against Brazil. Iraq played well in defense and were well-organized. Iraq also took advantage of our mistakes during the game.”
Individual mistakes have littered Saudi Arabia’s matches over the past few months and were in evidence in September in a 2-2 draw with Bolivia. Once again, Iraq took advantage of a sloppy pass at the back to score the opening goal to leave the hosts chasing the game.
Pizzi is all too aware that the side cannot afford to continue being generous to the opposition ahead of the Asian Cup.
“Repeated individual mistakes do have an effect,” said the 2016 Copa America winning coach.
“We also need to take our chances when they come.”
Errors at the back and a lack of a reliable goalscorer are the major issues going forward into January where they will face North Korea, Lebanon and Qatar in their group.
Pizzi handed a debut to Niger-born striker Abdulfatah Adam but the Al-Tawoun struggled to make an impact before being withdrawn before the hour.
Overall, however, the coach is positive about the upcoming continental tournament.
“It is good to see what we need to do ahead of the Asian Cup. These two games with Brazil and Iraq have given us a chance to look at some of the players and their readiness.
“I am a serious coach who works with precision and effectiveness and this will stand us in good stead of the Asian Cup.”
The coach was buoyed by praise from Brazilian star Neymar, talking ahead of the South American clash with Argentina.
“I was not surprised by the level of Saudi Arabia against us,” the Paris Saint-Germain forward said.
“We saw at the World Cup what they could do and this is a team that I feel has lots of potential. They will develop further in the coming years.”
Iraq coach Srecko Katanec was left frustrated after the 94th minute equalizer cost him a first victory with Iraq since taking charge of the team last month.
“We deserved to win but decisions went against us at the end when we should have had a foul given against us,” the Slovenian said before taking the positives from the game.
“We played well against a strong Saudi Arabia team in Riyadh and the overall performance was a strong one.”
Iraq lost 4-0 to Argentina last Thursday and bounced back to give the former UAE coach hope ahead of the Asian Cup and group games against Iran, Vietnam and Yemen.
“We haven’t had much time together on the training pitch so there were lots to be encouraged about in two games against good teams. We need more time to build team cohesion and improve our organization.
“I have been happy with the players and there is obviously a lot of talent here.
“We are developing and gradually improving.”


Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

Updated 22 February 2019
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Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

  • World No. 4 wins third three-setter of the week beat Hsieh Su-wei and claim place in the final.
  • Swiss star Bencic deals a forehand smash to Svitolina's chances of unprecedented hat-trick.

LONDON: If Petra Kvitova does get her hands on the Dubai trophy against Belinda Bencic on Saturday, she will be quick to admit she did it the hard way.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was once again made to toil at the Aviation Club as she finally overcame Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was her third three-setter in four days and came about as much through sheer grit and determination as any superior groundstrokes or serves.
“Yeah, it was (tough),” the Czech said.
“It was a tough one, for sure. She really didn’t give me anything for free.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. Anyway I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Coming into the event the world No. 4 admitted she was undercooked and in need of some game time. While, in hindsight, the three-setters against Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady in the first two rounds probably did her some good, another match that went the distance was probably not in the ideal script for the 2013 Dubai champion.
But Hsieh is a tricky opponent and she proved it once again on Centre Court. The world No. 31 hits two-handed shots off both sides and was trying to beat her fourth top-10 seed of the week. That included wins over Angelique Kerber in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

Bencic will try to upset Kvitova in Saturday's final at the Aviation Club (AFP) 


She started off in much the same vein as she had finished against Kerber and Pliskova, hurrying Kvitova around the court and making life as uncomfortable as possible under the hot Dubai sun.
“She’s very tricky,” Kvitova said about Hsieh, who grabbed five games in a row to take the opening set and go up 1-0 in the second.
“I didn’t really play the best at the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterwards a little bit,” Kvitova said.
“With Hsieh, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It’s not really that easy to make those winners against her.”
While she has 
not consistently displayed her A-game this week it should come as no shock that Kvitova has made today’s final. It was the second seed’s 17th victory of 2019 — a feat bettered by no one — and it will be her third final of the season and 35th of her career. She revealed that her presence in the showdown is thanks to her mental toughness and she admitted that after a long week she will have to draw on that a lot today.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was more calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set,” Kvitova said.
“I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow — it was something weird.
“I’m a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final, so I don’t know how I going to recover. Hopefully I have a few hours to do something with me.”
Of her sparkling form so far this year she said: “It’s a bit weird, to be honest. I didn’t really expect anything like that. Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect anything, which I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
“As I mentioned, the tennis, it’s a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I’m escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting.”
In the other semifinal Bencic once again upset the odds to overcome world No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. The Swiss went into the clash as the underdog, but from the off the world No. 45 was aggressive and deservedly won.
In doing so she ended Svitolina’s 12-match winning streak in Dubai and ended the two-time defending champion’s hopes of becoming the first woman to win three Dubai titles in a row.