Alberto Zaccheroni heaped praise on a young and energetic India team that posed plenty of problems for his UAE side – although the Italian admired the Whites’ “clinical” finishing that earned a key 2-0 win at the Asian Cup.
The host nation were harried and harangued for large parts of an entertaining encounter at Zayed Sports City on Thursday night – one that saw the UAE go to the top of Group A with four points following their win and saw them put one foot in the knockout stages.
Veteran Italian tactician Zaccheroni thanked the 43,206 fans inside the stadium for supporting his side – even if most of the noise being generated was by passionate Indian followers.
“I am delighted to have been able to make UAE fans happy with this win,” said Zaccheroni, the 65-year-old ex-Juventus, AC and Inter Milan coach who won this competition with Japan in 2011.
“I know they were disappointed after the first draw. I would like to thank all of those fans that came here tonight and supported us.”
Zaccheroni and his charges were under pressure following a below par performance and result in their opening game of the tournament against Gulf neighbours Bahrain last Saturday. Ahmed Khalil’s late penalty earned a late point in a 1-1 stalemate.
The result was much better against Stephen Constantine’s Blue Tigers, who had thrashed Thailand 4-1 in their first game, even if the UAE were outplayed for large spells.
But a deft Khalfan Mubarak finish before the break put the UAE 1-0 up after being teed up by Al Jazira team-mate Ali Mabkhout. And it was the lethal Pride of Abu Dhabi striker who secured victory with a late second for his side.
The win moved the UAE onto four points, with India second on goal difference from Thailand who beat Bahrain 1-0 earlier in the day.
And Zaccheroni was pleased with how his side dealt with the threat of the Blue Tigers.
“We started well, but with time we struggled with the pace of the Indian team,” he added.
“In the second half, we changed the way we play; we were tackling more, recovering the ball quicker and were more focused. We were clinical in front of goal and got the second goal.
“Congratulations for my team for the result and the performance. India have a bright future ahead of them.”
Know more about Sport360 Application