United Arab Emirates coach Mahdi Ali was delighted with his team’s performance in thrashing Qatar 4-1 in the opening game of Group C at the 2015 Asian Cup yesterday.
Despite falling behind to an exquisite Khalfan Ibrahim lob midway through the first half, Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout scored two each to give their team a vital three points – even if not all Asian Cup opponents will be as generous.
“I’m very happy with this win,” said Mahdi Ali. “I was sure that the players would do their best. We worked hard for this game as this was the key game. The first step gives players motivation and confidence for the second game.”
Opposite number Djamel Belmadi looked a little shellshocked.
“There are no positives to take from this game,” the Algerian said.
“In the second half, I tried to make changes but against a team like UAE it is hard to get back into the game.”
Qatar drew first blood. Midway through the first half. Mohammed Muntari’s shot was blocked by Majed Nasser but, standing just inside the area, Ibrahim coolly chested the ball down and then beautifully lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Then it all went wrong for Qatar. The equaliser, coming nine minutes before the break, was a painful one for the 2014 Gulf Cup champions.
Keeper Qasem Burhan spilled a cross, the ball was launched back in the area by Abdelaziz Sanqoor for Khalil. His header was cleared off the line by Ibrahim Majed straight onto the chest of the UAE’s number 11 who inadvertently did the rest and found the empty net.
Roared on by a small but loud contingent of fans, the UAE continued to look dangerous and Khalil should have done better from a smart Omar Abdulrahman pass just before the break.
But five minutes after the restart he redeemed himself.
Khalil’s free-kick was curled in from the left, deceiving the bungling Burhan and ending up in the net.
“It’s great to score two goals,” said Khalil. “The second goal was more beautiful as it was the way I wanted to score but I worked for the first also. We are very happy with this win. We did not expect to win by four but we played according to Qatar’s weakness and we got the result.”
Worse was to come for the 2022 World Cup hosts just three minutes later from another free-kick.
This time their struggling goalkeeper parried a fierce shot from Khamis Esmail but only into the path of the in-form Mabkhout who finished from close range.
It was a torrid afternoon for the Qatari goalkeeper who was at fault for at least two of the UAE’s goals though Belmadi absolved his number one of blame for the third.
“[Qasem] made two mistakes but this is football. In the previous competition, he was the best goalkeeper of the tournament but today was not his day.”
Mabkhout added a fourth late in the game to put UAE within sight of the knockout stage ahead of their second match against Bahrain. Qatar travel to Sydney to take on Group D favourites Iran. Well, at least, they were the favourites.
Ali intends to keep his players’ feet on the ground. “I have been with this group for nine years. We are celebrating today but tomorrow we have to forget about this and think about our next game. We have to work harder now.”
Know more about Sport360 Application