The UAE Under-23s began the year on a winning note but had to work for their 2-0 victory over China in their practice match on Friday night.
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Second-half strikes from Sharjah’s Yousif Saeed and Jazira’s Ahmed Al-Attas sealed their team’s second straight win as they continue their preparations for the AFC Championship later this month.
Plenty is at stake for the 27 players as coach Dr Abulla Misfer looks to name his final squad for that event which sees the top three advancing to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. At Dubai Police Officers Club, the hosts did not have the best of starts with China beginning brightly.
The visiting outfit were nearly ahead after just 10 minutes but 18-year-old Zhang Yuning’s headed effort went straight at goalkeeper Mohamed Saeed, who palmed the ball away. That attack gave the Chinese more confidence and a few minutes later, Wu Xinghan wasted another opportunity in front of goal as his header went over the bar.
Misfer, clearly concerned by his team’s start, was at the dugout, barking orders at his players. Whatever he said seemed to do the trick as the UAE began to string some passes together but failed to create clear-cut chances.
UAE Olympic Team warmed up for the AFC U23 C’ship with a 2-0 friendly win over China tonight. Yousif Saeed penalty & Ahmed Alattas header
— Lauren Doble (@LaurenDoble) January 1, 2016
China had the ball in the net through Yuning but it was chalked off by referee Omar Mohamed for offside. The momentum was with the East Asian side and Vitesse’s Yuning continued to be a threat to the UAE defence. His latest effort saw him dribble the ball past two defenders before seeing his shot go wide of keeper Saeed’s far post.
Just before half-time, the UAE registered their first attempt on target. After a dazzling run, Khalfan Mubarak won a free-kick and Ahmed Barman unleashed a 25-yard shot, presenting an easy save for China goalkeeper Du Jia.
With the scores level at half-time, both sides made a number of substitutions. A minute after the restart, the UAE pushed forward and were rewarded when Mohamed Salman was tripped in the penalty box. Saeed made no mistake from the spot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
That goal saw a response from China, who upped their tempo in the second period. Substitutes Li Yuanyi and Liu Binbin were difficult to handle for the UAE defence. But it was Yuning who was the biggest threat. His smart low flick went past the post, while Binbin’s skills and pace caused big problems on the right hand side.
But despite their possession, China could not find the equaliser. And they were made to pay with less than 20 minutes to go as Saeed Musabbeh’s cross was converted by Al-Attas to double the UAE’s lead.