Pivotal forward Ahmed Al Attas was spot on when it mattered for the UAE as his last-gasp penalty against spiky Lebanon exorcised a night of frustration and pushed his nation to the verge of 2018 AFC U-23 Championship qualification.
Coach Hassan Al Abdoli had looked set to explode on the touchline as he watched his dominant charges waste a succession of chances and be inexplicably denied a previous spot-kick. With only one side guaranteed entry to next January’s tournament in
China and emerging Uzbekistan up next in tomorrow’s Group D-finale, precious points seemed poised to drain away at Al Ain’s Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium.
Yet a clumsy barge in the back from Cedars defender Khaled Ali on substitute Ali Eid provided Al Attas – scythed down moments earlier by the same player in the box, only for referee Mohammed Al Hoish to wave play on – with an opportunity to strike.
Watched on by note taking senior coach Edgardo Bauza, the 21-year-old Al Jazira starlet stroked the ball low into the bottom corner in the 84th minute for his third goal during two impressive matches.
A draw now against the Uzbeks, who earlier beat minnows Nepal 2-0, will suffice because of their superior goal difference, with defeat still leaving open the possibility of progression as one of five-best runners-up.
The first half was one to forget for Al Wahda playmaker Khalid Bawazir as he spurned a trio of presentable opportunities.
Al Attas then became the key figure. A low shot was well saved by goalkeeper Mostafa Matar, before he was fouled without punishment and then remained undaunted to convert the treasured winner.