Pizzi praises im­pact of Bah­bri after Le­banon win

Green Fal­cons’ coach hails mid­fielder’s per­for­mance as Saudi Ara­bia progress

Arab News - - Sport News - Arab News Lon­don AFP

Juan An­to­nio Pizzi’s Saudi Ara­bia side showed a ruth­less pro­fes­sion­al­ism in dis­patch­ing Le­banon at the week­end, and the Ar­gen­tine coach has urged the Green Fal­cons not to take their foot off the gas as they look to fin­ish the group stage with a 100 per­cent record against Qatar.

Speak­ing after Fa­had Al-Muwal­lad and Hou­sain Al-Mo­qahwi sealed a 2-0 win over the Cedars — which sent Saudi Ara­bia into the Asian Cup round of 16 — Pizzi praised his team, and the im­pact of Hatan Bah­bri in par­tic­u­lar.

“Hatan is ac­tu­ally do­ing very, very well and play­ing at a very good level,” the Ar­gen­tine said of the Al-Shab­bab mid­fielder.

“He was not with us dur­ing the first train­ing camp due to in­jury, but joined us for the sec­ond, where he showed his ded­i­ca­tion, con­cen­tra­tion and ef­fort.”

Bah­bri, who scored his first in­ter­na­tional goal for the Green Fal­cons in their group opener against North Ko­rea, was in­stru­men­tal in Saudi Ara­bia’s sec­ond goal against Le­banon — de­liv­er­ing a pin­point cross into the box for Al-Mo­qahwi to slot the ball into the net.

“He is a player you would like to have in your team be­cause of his qual­i­ties, but I hope he will not be re­laxed at the level he has reached, be­cause he can go fur­ther than this.

“He has many chances to be bet- ter. I wouldn’t say he is the best, but he is def­i­nitely among our best play­ers,” Pizzi said.

The coach also paid trib­ute to the rest of his play­ers for the wellde­served vic­tory.

“The play­ers com­mit­ted to the tac­tics and strat­egy,” he said.

“In­di­vid­u­ally, each player did their job per­fectly. I’m very happy with their per­for­mance and the re­sult.”

Saudi Ara­bia now face Qatar in their fi­nal group game as Pizzi’s charges look to top the group and or­ches­trate an eas­ier route to the fi­nal. But the Ar­gen­tine said each game will pose a threat to his team.

“As time goes by, the matches be­come more dif­fi­cult be­cause the other teams are well ac­quainted with our team and how we play, which is nor­mal, but we will cer­tainly be well pre­pared for each match,” he said.

“We have five days to work on the next game, and all the play­ers in the the squad are fully pre­pared and ready for that.”

Saudi Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Qusay Al-Fawaz also com­pli­mented Pizzi and his side’s or­ga­ni­za­tion, men­tal tough­ness and ef­forts in qual­i­fy­ing for the knock­out stage a game early.

“We will treat this game (Le­banon) as a win and three points, but the team will be ready to pre­pare for the next con­fronta­tion, ac­cord­ing to our strat­egy to con­tinue the tour­na­ment,” he said.

Mean­while, de­feat for Le­banon leaves their hopes of qual­i­fy­ing for the knock­out stage hang­ing by a thread. They must now win their fi­nal group match against North Ko­rea on Thurs­day to stand any chance of pro­gress­ing as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Head coach Mio­drag Radulovic com­mended Saudi Ara­bia for their vic­tory but rued his side’s missed op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“I want to con­grat­u­late Saudi Ara­bia for the vic­tory, they de­served to win, but also, I’m a lit­tle bit dis­ap­pointed with los­ing two clean chances in the first half. When you don’t score, you can’t achieve a pos­i­tive re­sult,” said Radulovic.

“We didn’t use our chances, my play­ers should learn from these games but I’m not dis­ap­pointed with their per­for­mance, just on miss­ing the two chances.

“For my team now, it’s very im­por­tant to have a good rest and re­cover, and to try to win the last game. I think it will be enough to (reach) the next round.”

Saudi Ara­bia’s mid­fielder Hatan Bah­bri fights for the ball with Le­banon’s Joan Ou­mari.

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