zaterdag 8 september 2012

Friendlies Report

Spain 5-0 Saudi Arabia
Villa nets comeback goal in thumping friendly win
The forward tucked away a penalty in his first game for his country since returning from a broken leg, but it was his Barcelona team-mate Pedro who stole the show with two goals

Pedro, Spain

Spain warmed up for their opening 2014 World Cup qualifier with a predictably facile 5-0 friendly win over Saudi Arabia on Friday night.

Santi Cazorla opened the scoring and Pedro doubled the home side's advantage soon after. Substitute Xavi netted a third two minutes into the second half before Barcelona team-mate David Villa announced his return to the international arena by converting a penalty shortly after entering the fray.

Pedro then put the seal on an impressive individual display when he tucked away a terrific through-ball from David Silva with 17 minutes remaining.

The reigning world and two-time European champions, who take their first step on the road to Rio against Georgia next week, fielded an experimental starting lineup, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta among those named on the bench. However, La Roja still had far too much class for a game but limited Saudi Arabia side.

Indeed, the only surprise was that it took so long for them to break the deadlock, although that was primarily down to Fernando Torres' wayward finishing, the Chelsea man, who was making his 100th appearances for his country, wasting two fine through-balls inside the opening 10 minutes.

As it was, it was left to another member of Spain's Premier League contingent, Cazorla, to open the scoring, the Arsenal schemer tapping home from close range after Waleed Abdullah could only parry a shot from Pedro.

The latter made no mistake five minutes later, finding the back of the net with a delightful chip just moments after Nasser Al-Shamrani had gone close with a header for the visitors.

Cazorla, who had teed up Pedro for the second, then very nearly conjured a third goal for the home side but his sublime curling effort cruelly came back off the woodwork.

Still, Spain did put the outcome beyond all doubt when Xavi, who had replaced Cesc Fabregas during the interval, found the top corner with a free-kick that saw the ball not only find its way past Abdullah - but also through a hole in the net.

The game now won, La Roja boss decided to make more changes and substitute Villa, who has only just recovered from the horrific leg break he suffered last December, made it 4-0 from the penalty spot, after Sayyaf Al-Beeshi had felled Monreal in the area.

Pedro then heaped further misery on the beleaguered Saudis when he latched onto a defence-splitting pass from David Silva before coolly dinking the ball over Abdullah, putting himself in real contention for a starting berth in Tuesday's Group I clash with Georgia in Tbilisi.

Brazil 1-0 South Africa
Hulk strikes but Selecao fail to convince
The recently-acquired Zenit St Petersburg forward decided the game with a thumping 74th minute strike but it did little to paper over the cracks of a lacklustre Selecao display

Hulk - Brazil

Brazil left it late to break down a resilient South Africa side and secure a 1-0 win in their first game on home soil in over a year at the Morumbi.

It was a tumultuous return to his native country for Mano Menezes as his side's performance left the home fans disgruntled and frustrated for large parts. However, when Hulk drilled in an effort after 74 minutes there was a collective sigh of relief to ease the pressure on the coach somewhat.

In a match that Brazil were largely expected to dominate, it came as a surprise when South Africa forged the first opportunity of the game in the 12th minute. Siboniso Gaxa pushed forward down the right and got in behind Marcelo after a one-two with Dino Ndlovu. He attacked the goal unopposed but his shot lacked conviction and Diego Alves saved.

The Selecao responded well and five minutes later they tested the opposing keeper from a set piece. Neymar's delivery from deep was met by a powerful header from Dede but he put it straight down the middle and Itumeleng Khune turned the ball behind.

The Bafana Bafana were giving a good account of themselves with a physical display dampening the atmosphere on Brazil's Independence day. After wayward efforts from Oscar and Neymar, it was not until the 34th minute that Khune was forced to work again as he kept out Lucas Moura's powerful strike, albeit unorthodoxly.

But there was nothing unconventional about the keeper's next stop. Neymar sprung the offside trap and  latched onto Dani Alves' through ball but he failed to put his shot either side of Khune who stayed big to deny the Santos youngster.

Greeted by boos and calls for Menezes' head at half time and things did not get much better after the restart. Lerato Chabangu lashed an effort narrowly over the bar and was only denied a tap-in by a goal-line clearance from Dede moments later after some terrific work by substitute Bernard Parker.

There were signs of life from Brazil as Leandro Damiao and Neymar fired efforts at goal but they were warned against over-comitting as Parker's drilled effort scraped the bar on the hour mark.

Menezes made a number of changes in an attempt to alter the momentum of the game which was increasingly swaying towards the confident South Africans. 

One of those substitutions saw the introduction of Hulk and from a free kick he won, Neymar saw a spectacular free kick clawed away from the top corner by the impressive Khune.

However, the keeper was finally beaten five minutes later, much to the relief of the home crowd. Despite making a brilliant stop from David Luiz's initial effort from an acute angle, the rebound fell to Hulk and the Zenit St Petersburg forward rifled a volley into the back of the net.

Neymar came close to adding another moments later but with his header from Hulk's cross shaping up to go wide, the keeper gave it an extra touch just to make sure.

Nevertheless the Selecao saw out the game but their fans will be upset with such a poor showing on their retun home which they voiced with more boos at the final whistle. Gordon Igesund, however, can take pride in the performance of his South Africa side in his first game in charge.


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