10-man Greece succumb to Saudi Arabia
|Saudi Arabia||2 - 0||Greece|
|Al Dawsari 19'
A largely experimental Greece were beaten 2-0 by World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in an international friendly which Michael Skibbe’s team had to play the entire second half with 10 players due to Dimitris Giannoulis’ sending off.
Goals from Salem Al-Dawarsi and Mohammed Kanno proved enough to seal a comfortable victory for the Saudi’s, who face Russia in the opening match of the World Cup on June 14, at the Estadio de La Cartuja stadium in Seville.
Although the result was a disappointing one for the Greeks, who are preparing for the UEFA Nations League which gets underway in September, they were unlucky not to at least get on the scoresheet with both Tasos Bakasetas and Efthymis Koulouris hitting the woodwork.
Greece actually started the match confidently and controlled much of the early possession before the Saudi’s sprung a counter attack after 19 minutes which caught the Greek rearguard cold.
The Saudi’s committed men forward and with a three-on-two situation, Al-Dawarsi rose to head home a cross past the helpless Vasilis Barkas.
The Greeks rallied and were close to going level in the 33rd minute when Bakasetas rattled the left post with a stunning 35-yard free-kick.
There was a youthful look about Skibbe’s selection, which contained just one player playing outside of Greece in Alexandros Tziolis.
One of those younger inclusions, PAOK full-back then suffered the misfortune of being wrongly sent-off after 43 minutes. Giannoulis, who spent the past season on loan at SuperLeague surprise package Atromitos, tackled Al-Dawarsi as he bore down on goal, and the referee immediately reached for his red card.
Replays however, showed that the Greece defender had actually won the ball.
Despite that set-back and conceding much of the possession due to being a man down in the second half, Greece still looked dangerous and they were denied another chance to level in the 79th minute.
PAOK forward Koulouris, who is usually a member of the Under-21 squad, worked himself some space in the penalty box before firing in a shot which cannoned off the post and bounced to safety.
Greece then paid dearly for that miss a minute later when Kanno scored with a clinical finish, showing great footwork to flick the ball over Olympiacos defender Dimitris Nikolaou and volley past substitute goalkeeper Andreas Gianniotis.
And that was how it finished, with Greece’s poor scoring record of late continuing - they have scored just two goals in their last five games.
Greece’s will play another friendly in June before they kick off their League C campaign in the UEFA Nations League with their first group match against Estonia on September 8.