Juan Antonio Pizzi praises impact of Hatan Bahbri after Lebanon win in Asian Cup

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LONDON: Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi Arabia side showed a ruthless professionalism in dispatching Lebanon at the weekend, and the Argentine coach urged the Green Falcons to avoid taking their foot off the gas as they look to finish the group stages with a 100 percent record.
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 last-16 — Pizzi praised his team and the impact of Hatan Bahbri in particular.
“Hatan (Bahbri) 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 reach further than this.
“He has many chances to be better. I wouldn’t say he is the best, but he is definitely among our best players,” Pizzi said.
Pizzi also paid tribute to the rest of his players for the well-deserved 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 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 as a win and only three points, and the team will be ready to prepare for the next confrontation, according to our strategy to continue the tournament,” Al-Fawaz 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 best four 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.”

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