Jordan ready to unleash more shocks in Asian Cup second round

Jordan surprised everyone, possibly even themselves, by topping Group B. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019

Jordan ready to unleash more shocks in Asian Cup second round

  • Borkelmans' boys not finished with the giant-killing in the UAE.
  • Jordan beat both Australia and Syria in the group stage and are confident they can go far.

LONDON: They may have surprised a few fans and rivals, but Jordan insist they have not stopped with the shocks in the UAE.
Australia and Syria were the two teams widely expected to coast through to the knockout stages from Group B. But Vital Borkelmans’ team ignored the form book and beat both the Socceroos and Syrians, before the final game 0-0 draw with Palestine, to top the pool.
And having got a taste of giantkilling Jordan are after more.
“We tried to get a maximum nine points from the group stage, but we couldn’t. We are, though, grateful we got a point from the game against Palestine and that we have qualified as group leaders,” Jordan midfielder Abdel Rahman said.
“This is the fourth Asian Cup for (us) and we have managed to advance and keep a clean sheet in all three of our group stage games.
“The Jordanian team doesn’t fear any other team. We are a humble side and we respect any team that we play. We will strive to do our best in the next round.”
Borkelmens’ boys are yet to concede a goal in the UAE and that dogged defense will be key as to whether they can continue their run at a first Asian Cup title. They are yet to learn who they will face in the second-round clash in Dubai on Sunday but it is clear that along with the defense, the side’s passionate fans will also be key to their chances of making the quarterfinals.
“The fans (have been) great. I really hope they keep supporting us in the upcoming stages,” Rahman said.

The message of confidence is clearly permeating through the camp with Borkelmans saying his team fear no one. 

“I am happy, we got seven points and three clean sheets, something I would have taken before the tournament,” the coach said.

“We do not know our Round of 16 opponents yet, but I know that we have already started working. My players have a lot of confidence and they are positive.

“I hope we can do something in the next round. Indeed, every round we progress to, we will have the confidence to go even further.”


Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

Updated 10 December 2019

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

  • Injury-hit Reds have consistently leaked goals despite streaking clear at the top of Premier League

LONDON: Liverpool travel to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champions to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holders.

Jurgen Klopp's men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the specter of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League's top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season despite streaking clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds' recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth, but lost another center back as Dejan Lovren limped off in the first half.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp's only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defense.

Van Dijk narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the battle for the Ballon d'Or last week in recognition of the transformative effect he has had on Liverpool's fortunes over the past two years.

But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against in recent months.

Injuries have meant there has been a constant rotation of Lovren, Gomez and Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk, while the attacking impetus offered by fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold leaves space in behind to be exploited.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also missed the first two months of the season due to a calf injury to further unsettle the backline.

The Brazilian is now back, but another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

"I forgot how it feels, to be honest," said Klopp on finally ending the long wait for a clean sheet at the weekend.

"It's great, we should have them more often. It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys — "clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet."

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that, now we have it so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday."

That is easier said than done as Liverpool know from their first meeting with Jesse Marsch's men in October.

The hosts seemed to be cruising to another Anfield win in the Champions League as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but Salzburg hit back to level at 3-3 before Mohamed Salah's winner ensured Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller.

Salzburg have scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

The 19-year-old started on the bench when the sides met at Anfield due to injury, but came on to inspire the visitors' revival in the second half and scored one of his eight Champions League goals.

"He's not the only threat from Salzburg but he's a proper one," said Klopp of the danger posed by Haaland ahead of the sides' first clash.

Salzburg need to win to make the last 16 on their first appearance in the group stage in 25 years.

A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but they need to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

Given Liverpool's paucity of clean sheets and Salzburg's thirst for goals, attack would appear to be the best form of defencse for the European champions.