Riaz, Hassan strikes help Ronaldinho win series [The News]

Riaz, Hassan strikes help Ronaldinho win series [The News]

LAHORE: Mohammad Riaz and Denmark-based Hassan Bashir scored one goal apiece, while Ronaldinho made an assist to enable his side to beat Ryan Giggs-led team 2-0 to win the two-match series 2-0 in Lahore on Sunday.

In the second outing, at the Fortress Stadium, former English goalkeeper David James denied Ronaldinho his first goal with a splendid save just after the kick-off.

However, Ronaldinho’s charges asserted themselves and it paid dividends as Pakistan’s international midfielder Mohammad Riaz capitalised on a chance created by Portugal’s Luis Boa Morte to put his side 1-0 ahead.

A few minutes later Ronaldinho’s drive went off the target. Finally Ronaldinho created a chance that was capitalised on by Danish striker Hassan Bashir to seal a 2-0 triumph for his side.

It was the second assist from the former Brazil star as he had created a fine opportunity in the first game as well which was converted by Pakistan’s prolific midfielder Saadullah on Saturday.

Former Pakistan goalie Jaffar Khan made a couple of diving saves while playing for Ronaldinho’s side on Sunday.

“When I made the second save, Ronaldinho came to me and said, ‘Great,’ Jaffar told ‘The News’ from Lahore. Jaffar, who was a late pick for the outing, rushed to Lahore in a rented car from Rawalpindi. “As time was too short, I got a car by giving a fare of Rs9000,” Jaffar said.

“I will never forget the moment. It was memorable to play alongside the world’s leading player of his age,” said Jaffar, a former Pakistan skipper. Ronaldinho, who received a glittering trophy from the chief guest, and the other foreign players will visit historical sites of Lahore on Monday (today) before departing for Dubai on Tuesday (tomorrow).

In the first game on Saturday, here at the floodlit Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium, Ronaldinho’s side defeated Ryan Giggs troops 2-1.

Each side had ten players. After a delayed start to the game marred by mismanagement, it was Ronaldinho’s charges that got onto the score-sheet six minutes into the first quarter through former French player Robert Pires who scored from the spot.

In the second quarter, former French striker Nicholas Anelka, whose Islamic name is Abdul Salam Bilal, could have struck but his mistimed drive went off the target. Soon Pires had a nice aerial pass to Ronaldinho but he delayed it much to the satisfaction of Giggs side who had the advantage of having English keeper David James under their cage.

Following another magical save from James, it was Anelka who brought the parity for Giggs team by scoring the equaliser in the third quarter. Later Ronaldinho found Kaleem on the top left corner but his header just missed the target.

Denmark-based glove-man Yousuf Butt prevented Ronaldinho’s team from conceding a goal. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Ronaldinho found Pires inside the area and rushed towards the top left cordon with Pires making a nice pass to his skipper but his flying reverse drive missed the target.

Saadullah provided the decisive lead to Ronaldinho team with an enviable ease. Luis Boa Morte gave a nice pass to Ronaldinho just outside the area and the world’s top midfielder then found Saadullah on the top left corner who just nudged it past James to complete the victory.

Earlier in the match, the referee disallowed a goal to Ronaldinho’s side when Luis Boa Morte delayed his kick while taking the penalty.

Published in The News, 10 July 2017

Dawn adds:

Brazilian football great Ronaldinho Gaucho and Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs were unanimous in saying that Pakistan should invest in infrastructure and academies besides inviting international coaches to promote the game in the country.

The duo, along with the five other international footballers, were speaking to media at a local hotel ahead of their second exhibition match in Lahore, following a match in Karachi.

The other players were England’s David James, France’s Nicolas Anelka and Robert Pires, Portugal’s Luis Boa Morte and Netherlands’ George Boateng.

Acknowledging that in outside world Pakistan is known for its cricket, Giggs said it was encouraging to find that there was a lot of individual talent.

“Every league and association in the world needs right infrastructure and coaching and same is true for Pakistan to improve its international ranking. Pakistan currently stands at 200th in the FIFA ranking; there are 206 teams in total,” he said.

In order to reach to the next level, Giggs said organisers needed to bring in the best coaches in the world so that a culture of football in Pakistan could flourish.

Ronaldinho also called for offering conducive environment to the young generation.

Lauding the local football players, who played in seven-a-side exhibition matches, he said the players “needed to be coached at international standards to reach next level of the game”.

Giggs said the exhibition matches had given a message to the world that Pakistan is safe for sports.