Juan Antonio Pizzi claims North Korea win banishes memories of Russia thrashing

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Salem Al-Dawsari slotted home the third goal in the Green Falcons' 4-0 hammering of North Korea in Dubai. (AFP)
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Updated 09 January 2019
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Juan Antonio Pizzi claims North Korea win banishes memories of Russia thrashing

  • Green Falcons boss says side can now lay to rest the ghosts of their 5-0 World Cup defeat to Russia.
  • Pizzi positive Saudi Arabia can improve with every match in the UAE.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s 4-0 victory over North Korea on Tuesday has helped banish the painful memories of the side’s humbling at the hands of Russia in the opening match of the World Cup last year.
That is the message from Juan Antonio Pizzi whose demeanor following the Group E win against the Koreans was in stark contrast to the figure on the touchline in Moscow some six months ago.
Back then the Green Falcons’ coach looked helpless and aghast as his side were thrashed 5-0 by the hosts. While they went on to only narrowly lose 1-0 to Uruguay and then register their first World Cup win for over 20 years with victory over Egypt, the scars of that Russia defeat still remained.
Add in the fact that opening matches of big tournaments always tend to be tight, edgy affairs and any worry Pizzi and Co. may have had before their Asian Cup clash against North Korea would have been well placed.
But having swept past Kim Yong-jun’s team Pizzi was able to breathe a sigh of relief and claim the side’s Russia demons were now firmly in the past.
“After our first loss in the World Cup in 2018, I think the team understood perfectly that they had to do everything, to be organized, to obey orders in order to be a better team,” the coach said.

Saudi Arabia lost their World Cup opener 5-0 to hosts Russia last summer. (AFP) 


“I’m personally very happy because normally the first game of the tournament there are nervous moments, especially when we knew Australia lost their opening game (to Jordan), and we didn’t want that to happen to us.”
Having got the first game out of the way, and in some style, Pizzi looked forward to the rest of the tournament, which will see Saudi Arabia face Lebanon on Saturday and then Qatar five days later.
“What was most important was that we implemented our own style of play today. We will follow the same ambition for the coming matches,” the former Spain international said.
“I’m so happy and, hopefully, we will continue with the same level throughout the tournament.”
Having only been at the helm six months before the World Cup kick-off Pizzi is now emphasizing the benefits of having had more time with his players claiming that they are getting better with every match.
“There is no doubt that the time that you spend with a team allows you to gain confidence of the players, but we also noticed our players are ready to learn and ready to do what we ask as technical staff,” the 50-year-old said.
“The have a high commitment, even the new players, and day after day, they became more consistent.”

BRILLIANT BAHBRI

The victory against North Korea was notable not just for banishing the memories of the Russia defeat but also as the side’s opener, scored by Hatan Bahbri, was the 1,000th goal scored by Saudi Arabia.
It was a goal worthy of such a milestone as he fired in from the left side of the penalty area into the far corner.
It was his first international strike, but while delighted to etch his name into the record books he claimed he was now only focused on the next match against the Cedars in Dubai.
“I am grateful and honored to have got my first international goal which was the 1000th goal in Saudi Arabia’s history,” the 26 year-old said.
“We passed the first test, but have an important match ahead against Lebanon. Lebanon are a strong side and we respect them, but we want to get all three points.
“We will forget this match and focus on giving our best in the second match.”


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.