UAE downed in style by China at 2018 Asian Games, but creep into the knockouts

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An appropriate time to analyse why the UAE Under-23s required a back door to make the 2018 Asian Games’ knockouts is to come.

Now, coach Maciej Skorza must take stock and see what awaits his side after they sneaked through as one of the best third-placed sides in Indonesia. The full line-up will be decided on Monday.

An improved display against rampant China when Group C wound to a close still delivered a second loss from three matches. But at least this one didn’t come with the caveat of a definite end.

Skorza’s predecessors oversaw failures to make the Rio 2016 Olympics and 2018 AFC U-23 Championship.

But whether the Pole can even repeat 2014’s run to the Asian Games’ quarter-finals may require a gentle draw.

The UAE’s latest reversal in the current edition was delivered in remarkable fashion.

Shandong Luneng midfielder Yao Junsheng looked up from near the halfway line on 71 minutes and powerfully lobbed goalkeeper Mohamed Al Shamsi to seal a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory.

A look of astonishment crept across the Wahda man’s face. In reality, he’s now culpable for both reversals at Jalak Harupat Stadium – flimsy fingertips helped Syria to an opening 1-0 triumph last Tuesday.

The Junior Whites had gained a deserved lead on Sunday through Fujairah winger Mohammed Khalfan’s snapped low finish against qualified opponents, who came in with a goal difference of +9. All well and good.

Sharjah’s Majed Surour and Al Jazira’s Mohamed Al Attas at that stage were winning the midfield battle. On the flank, Khalfan was a threat in behind.

The prospect of a first eliminations in the pools since 2006 seemed reassuringly distant.

This warm feeling would be vanquished close to half-time. Beijing Guoan left winger Wei Shihao would cut inside onto his favoured right boot and arrow a powerful effort past the helpless Al Shamsi.

Even better was to come through Junsheng.

Encouragement in defeat, then. But defeat, all the same.

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