A nation expects whenever celebrated playmaker Omar Abdulrahman takes to the pitch.
But Tuesday’s first UAE start in a year after his serious knee injury ended in a momentum-sapping defeat to Thailand in World Cup 2022 qualifying.
An undercooked Amoory was inconsequential in a second-round clash from which Muangthong United forward Teerasil Dangda and Whites record-breaker Ali Mabkhout traded first half headers, before Chiangrai United teenager Ekanit Panya earned a 2-1 win in the 51st minute.
On target: 2
Off target: 4
Yellow cards: 2
Bert van Marwijk’s men travelled to Thailand eager to build on a 100-per-cent start from two second-round matches.
Vanquished opponents Malaysia and Indonesia, however, were not even close to the level expected from Tuesday’s hosts. And this state of play proved true at Thammasat Stadium.
The War Elephants – who also hit the woodwork twice – went ahead when Panya crossed to Dangda, who moved onto 45 goals in 102 internationals. Mabkhout would level in first-half injury time from Al Hassan Saleh’s cross, but Panya soon pounced to earn a deserved win.
Killer vision remains: The zip of old is, understandably, not there yet after a recent rehabilitation from another serious knee injury.
But the quality in possession is still there. A ball that intersected centre-back and full-back for Al Wahda winger Khalil Ibrahim was divine, so too the cheek to blast a free-kick from out wide narrowly over.
This was only a second start in eight appearances for club and country this term. Both the UAE and Al Jazira will hope increased physical sharpness brings greater defining moments.
Lasting the pace: Amoory started brightly, dropping deeper into midfield to dictate proceedings.
There were several sharp passes only he could have conceived. But equally, there were numerous plays where an inhibited Amoory cut back rather than racing forward like the days of old.
This left No9 Mabkhout isolated, while also curtailing opportunities to get exciting Al Wasl teenager Ali Saleh involved. By the time Amoory was hooked for fellow former AFC Player of the Year Ahmed Khalil on 72 minutes, he’d long dropped off the radar.
A night that promised so much for player and country turned into a reality check.
Jazira’s glacial approach to reintroducing their stellar summer signing to first-team football made perfect sense after the Thailand meeting. Amoory is not, as we speak, the same vibrant figure that departed the Emirates for boyhood club Al Hilal in August 2018.
The UAE also can have no illusions now about a strenuous route through Group G. Play like this next month in Vietnam and the alarm bells will ring.
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