UAE 5-0 Indonesia: Talking points feature an ode to record-breaker Ali Mabkhout

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Ali Mabkhout (l) (EPA).

A second-half hat-trick from history making Ali Mabkhout helped him become the UAE’s all-time record scorer and earn a patient 5-0 triumph against Indonesia, making it two wins from two second-round World Cup 2022 qualifiers.

Bert van Marwijk’s competitive home debut began in muted fashion as the Whites struggled to break down Group G-opponents ranked 101 places below them by FIFA, in 167th. It took until the 41st minute for debutant goalkeeper Wawan Hendrawan to fumble an over-hit Ali Saleh cross and Al Wahda midfielder Khalil Ibrahim, at the second attempt, gratefully lash home a first goal in three caps.

Instructions to pick up the pace were clearly issued at the interval. They were adhered to in an improved second-half performance from which prolific Al Jazira hit man Mabkhout cheekily chipped in on 51 minutes after a Zulfiandi slip, converted a penalty once Saleh’s shot was illegally blocked by vice-captain Hansamu Yama’s arm and rounded the goalkeeper from the lively aforementioned Al Wasl winger’s searching through-ball.

These strikes made it a landmark 54 goals from 81 caps, overtaking Al Shaab icon Adnan Al Talyani’s 22-year record of 52 in 161. Al Nasr warrior Tariq Ahmed – on home soil – then rounded off the scoring in injury time when he raced onto fellow substitute Ahmed Khalil’s saved shot.

Here are the talking points from Dubai’s Al Maktoum Stadium:

MABKHOUT’S MAGIC NIGHT

A special game in a truly special career.

Mabkhout, 29, looked a yard short in the early runnings. A propensity to search for the ball evidenced his frustrations at an abortive supply line from Al Nasr playmaker Jassem Yaqoub, while he would err with a lofted opportunity when the out-of-his-depth Hendrawan spooned a clearance.

Yet in typical style, when presentable chances came his way in a stretched second period they were mercilessly taken.

Tipped for greatness as a kid at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Mabkhout’s more than made good on this billing.

The striker has been top scorer at the 2014 Gulf Cup and 2015 Asian Cup. In an age dominated by big-name foreign imports into Asia’s elite domestic competitions, he’s also managed a sterling 129 strikes in 173 Arabian Gulf League run-outs.

His durability has been notable in an age when previous AFC Players of the Year Omar Abdulrahman and Ahmed Khalil – both second-half substitutes on Thursday after injuries – have proven brittle.

World Cup 1990 squad member Al Talyani will forever hold a cherished place in the affections of Emirati supporters. He has, however, been knocked off his pedestal by the eternal Mabkhout.

STICKING WITH THE PACESETTERS

Thursday witnessed a glut of goals across Asia as the heavyweights’ overbearing quality came to the fore.

Iran hammered Cambodia 14-0, Australia hit five against Nepal, Japan dismantled Mongolia 6-0, South Korea smashed Sri Lanka by eight and improving China beat Guam 7-0.

The Whites didn’t quite hit the Iranians’ towering heights on home soil, yet this second-half free-for-all would have done their confidence a world of good ahead of Tuesday’s defining trip to World Cup 2018 nemesis Thailand. It was, emphatically, a welcome contrast to the plodding 2-1 opening win in Malaysia, that began with a 33-second concession.

Saleh, 19, grew into the demands of international football and came away with two assists, while it’s now five goals in two matches for the peerless Mabkhout. Further bonuses came via second-half cameos from Khalil and Abdulrahman.

Indonesia, of course, were hospitable visitors. The first three goals came gift-wrapped, to the immense frustration of assured Scottish coach Simon McMenemy.

They also only threatened through substitute Stefano Lilipaly’s 20-yard free-kick, firmly dealt with by diving Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Essa.

Their return to World Cup qualification after 2018’s ban is effectively over after three defeats. For the UAE, positivity grows with 2010 finalist Van Marwijk at the helm.

KEEP THE FAITH

Eyebrows were raised an hour before kick-off when the team sheet showed an unchanged XI from the Malaysian malaise.

This reaction, however, does not reflect the strength of Van Marwijk’s convictions and the main reason he was hired. The Dutch master oversaw a root-and-branch review of Saudi Arabia that ended a 12-year absence from the World Cup.

A repeat of this process is well under way for the 2022 cycle.

Ibrahim and Saleh buzzed around the park, while this was a first competitive international clean sheet for the Khalifa Al Hammadi-Mohammed Al Attas centre-back axis that boasts an average age of 21.

Of the new guard, only Yaqoub appears to have been keeping Amoory’s spot warm in the XI.

Now comes the acid test at Thammasat Stadium.

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