Two goals each from Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout helped United Arab Emirates thrash Qatar 4-1 in their opening match of the 2015 Asian Cup in Canberra on Sunday afternoon.
Despite falling behind to an exquisite Khalfan Ibrahim lob midway through the first half, Khalil scored either side of the break and Ali Mabkhout added a further two to give Mahdi Ali's men a vital three points in the first clash in Group D.
Mabkhout and his men should not expect all their Asian Cup opponents to be as generous as the disappointing Qataris, however.
Coming into the tournament on an 11-match unbeaten run, Djamel Belmadi's team took the lead but then struggled to cope with the dynamic movement of UAE's front four with Omar Abdulrahman growing increasingly influential as the game progressed.
UAE started strongly with their number ten and star playmaker calming concerns over his fitness by clashing with opposite number Ibrahim seconds after kick-off and then firing a right-sided free kick towards the far top corner shortly after.
Before the game, UAE coach Mahdi Ali had talked of the importance of taking chances and was fuming as his point was soon proved by the Maroons midway through the first half. Hasan Al Haydos lifted the ball over the UAE defence, Mohammed Muntari's shot was blocked by Majed Naser but, standing just inside the area, Khalfan coolly chested the ball down and then beautifully lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Ali would at least have been happier with his side's determination to get back into the game and the men in white almost produced a rapid equaliser but Qasem got down quickly to push a firm downward header from Khalil around the post.
Then it all went wrong for the goalkeeper and his team. The leveler, nine minutes before the break, was a painful one for the 2014 Gulf Cup champions. Qasem spilled a cross, before the ball was launched back into the area by Abdelaziz Sanqoor for Ahmed Khalil. His header was cleared off the line by Ibrahim Majed straight onto the chest of the number 11 which inadvertently did the rest and found the empty net.
UAE, roared on by a small but loud contigent of fans in an attendance of over five thousand, continued to look dangerous and Khalil should have done better from a smart Omar pass just before the break. Khalil didn’t take long to redeem himself and five minutes later the forward curled a free-kick from outside the left side of the area past the hapless Qasem.
Worse was to come for the 2022 World Cup hosts just three minutes later from another free-kick. This time the goalkeeper parried a fierce shot from Khamis Esmaeel into the path of the in-form Mabkhout who finished from close range.
The same striker added a fourth late in the game to put UAE within sight of the knockout stage of the Asian Cup with Bahrain up next for Ali and his men. Meanwhile, Qatar travel to Sydney to take on Group D’s pre-tournament favourites Iran.
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