Asian Cup heartbreak for Jordan as Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Green Falcons chase glory against Japan

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Vietnam's Dang Van Lam saves a penalty from Jordan's Ahmed Samir during the penalty shootout. (Reuters)
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Vietnam's players celebrate their victory in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Round of 16 football match between Jordan and Vietnam at the Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. (AFP)
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Jordan players looks dejected after losing the penalty shootout. (Reuters)
Updated 20 January 2019

Asian Cup heartbreak for Jordan as Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Green Falcons chase glory against Japan

  • After extra-time finished at 1-1, BT Dung rolled in the decisive spot-kick for a 4-2 shootout win for Vietnam
  • The dramatic win will definitely be considered an upset after Jordan were the first to qualify for the knockout stages

DUBAI: It was Asian Cup agony for Jordan on Sunday after Vietnam emerged victorious from a penalty shoot out to become the first team to reach the quarterfinals — after being the last side to scrape into the round of 16.
After extra-time finished at 1-1, BT Dung rolled in the decisive spot-kick for a 4-2 shootout win and saluted the crowd after Baha Faisal and Ahmed Samir had missed for Jordan.
The dramatic win will definitely be considered an upset after Jordan were the first to qualify for the knockout stages, and Vietnam only went through because of their disciplinary record after they finished with an identical points and goals record to Lebanon.
However, the south-east Asian champions came back from a goal down to force extra time, and they were, on balance, the stronger and more positive team over the 120 minutes of play.
Vital Borkelmans’ Jordan came into the game as the form side and they spurned a number of chances before opening the scoring six minutes from half-time.
Baha Abdel-Rahman, taking a free kick from the right edge of the penalty area, hit it just right as the ball bent around the wall and flew into the top corner.
However, the goal stung Vietnam into action and they nearly hit back when Hung Dung’s dipping shot was tipped over by Jordan goalkeeper Amer Shafi.
Vietnam, who won the Suzuki Cup in December, levelled six minutes after the break, when Cong Phuong showed great technique to steer home a volley from close range.
On the hour-mark, Van Duc nearly snatched it for the Vietnamese but his dink over Shafi was hacked off the line by Anas Bani-Yaseen.
And Jordan’s Yaseen Bakheet had a great chance to grab the win in the first period of extra time, but from a high ball into the box he ballooned his volley over.
One could cut the tension in Dubai’s Al-Maktoum Stadium with a knife as the spot-kicks got underway and when Faisal hit the bar and Van Lam saved from Salih, Vietnam were very much in the driving seat.
Shafi, diving low, saved Minh Vuong’s attempt but it was only delaying defeat as Dung coolly netted the winner, giving a military salute in celebration before being mobbed by his team-mates.
Just 20 kilometers to the east, Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi Arabia were adding the finishing touches to their preparations for the huge round of 16 clash with Japan in Sharjah, which kicks off today.
And the Argentine coach was in confident mood, despite the “Samurai Blue” being one of the favorites for the the title.
“We have great ambition, we are facing a main candidate for winning (the tournament), our confidence is in our team and we came into the tournament knowing it would be tough,” he said on Sunday.
“All of our players are ready, injury-free and available for the game.”
When asked about the defeat to Qatar in the last game, Pizzi said his Green Falcons side were using it as an opportunity to learn for their “do-or-die” clash with Japan.
“If we lose (on Sunday) then we go home, we know that.
“I have followed the Japanese team in the past few matches, and consider them as one of the best teams.
“They are among one of the most consistent and 10 out of 11 (first-team) players play abroad. I consider them as strong candidates to win, but I also trust my players abilities,” he said.
As has been his wont throughout the Asian Cup, Pizzi was keen to dedicate Saudi Arabia’s progress in the tournament to the fans.
“I know the history of the two teams, especially in World Cup qualification, and I am also aware of the joy of Saudi people when we qualified.
“You have to focus on what’s in front of you as all matches are different. We are highly committed toward our fans and we will play in the best manner to win because our fans deserve the best,” he added.

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.