Alberto Zaccheroni‘s side had the opportunity to book their place in the semi-finals but failed to break through the defence of a second-string Saudi outfit in Kuwait City.
Ismail Ahmed was replaced by Fares Juma at the back, but other than that UAE retained the same line up that started the 1-0 win over Oman on Friday.
At the other end, Mukhtar Fallatah’s attempted lob had to be tipped over the bar by Khalid Essa.
Both sides remain level on points at the top of Group A.
UAE will take on hosts Kuwait in the final group encounter while Saudi face Oman.
Head coach Alberto Zaccheroni was happy that the UAE opened their Gulf Cup campaign on a winning note but insists there’s still a lot of work to do if they want to go all the way in the competition.
Ali Mabkhout’s first-half penalty was the only goal of the match as the Whites defeated Oman 1-0 at Kuwait’s Jaber International Stadium on Friday night.
It was Zaccheroni’s fourth match in charge since taking over in October after the 1-0 defeat to Haiti on his debut and a reverse scoreline against Uzbekistan. And while the former AC Milan, Juventus and Japan boss was satisfied with what he saw, he admits there are still areas he needs to work on ahead of the match against Saudi Arabia on Monday.
“Omani performed very well in the first 15 minutes of the match,” he said of the game in which Omar Abdulrahman was awarded man of the match.
“But we improved after that and after we scored the first goal, there was two more chances to score goals. “In the second half, we had a good start but then Oman improved and although they did their best to try and get the equaliser, we held on to win the game.
“It was very important to win the first match and there were positive signs to take from the match but my coaching team will have to work on correcting the mistakes.”
Having been in the hot seat for less than two months, the 64-yearold acknowledges it will take time for his players to adapt but reiterated the on-going tournament forms an important part of the team’s preparations for the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE.
“The first match of the championship is always quiet hard and it’s about planning for the players to understand step by step and understanding the coaches tactics,” he said after the match.
“This Gulf Cup is very important for us ahead of the Asian Cup. The most important thing is that the players continue preparing in all matches and training with an eye on the Asian Cup, which is our goal.”
The UAE’s next task is against Saudi Arabia, who despite fielding a second-string team, overcame hosts Kuwait 2-1 earlier on Friday evening.
Al Ain defender Mohaned Salem played the full 90 minutes in the opening victory and says picking up maximum points will give them a lot of confidence going into the Saudi clash.
Despite their rivals not being at their full strength, the 32-year-old is adamant his side will not take them lightly.
“Frankly, we have had a very good performance and proved to the coach that we are up to it,” he said ahead of the clash at Jaber International Stadium.
“The Saudi team is very strong and big but we will focus on our team’s performance and the ability to win some points will motivate us for the next match.”
The Al Jazira was spot on from 12 yards after being fouled in the first half and made no mistake converting on what proved to be the only goal of the game at Kuwait’s Jaber International Stadium.
But despite the three points, UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni will know it was far from an impressive performance and improvement would be needed if they are to go all the way.
Prior to the game, the Italian insisted he was relishing the challenge of the team’s tests in the Gulf Cup despite having little time to prepare for the two-week tournament.
His side were not scheduled to take part in the event considering it was due to be held in Qatar – a country in which the UAE have cut ties with since June.
But the competition was moved to Kuwait earlier this month after FIFA lifted the two-year ban on their national side competing.
Their lack of time on the training field initially showed when Oman, ranked 101 in the FIFA rankings, 28 below them frustrated the UAE in their own half.
Having seen much of the possession in their opponent’s half, Khalid Essa was called into the action by palming away Ahmed Kano’s brilliant free-kick.
But despite Oman’s encouraging start, they were left trailing 1-0 after 28 minutes Mabkhout was tripped in the penalty box, although TV replays showed there was little contact.
The striker made no mistake from the spot, sending Faiz Al Rushaidi the wrong way.
The 27-year-old could have doubled his tally for the night after being put through just moments after but the 2015 Asian Cup top-scorer scuffed his shot just wide of the post.
With the score still 1-0 going into the second-half, both sides pushed for the second goal of the evening. While Mabkhout was denited by Al Rushaidi, Omar Abdulrahman’s attempt for another penalty kick was waved away by the referee.
The UAE were unfortunate to still be holding a 1-0 lead especially when Kano raced past his marker to unleash a powerful shot across Essa’s goal.
Oman thought they had equalized when they had the ball in the back of the net and although the UAE pressed for the second, the scoreline remained 1-0.