UAE coach Bert van Marwijk defended his decision to play poster boy Omar Abdulrahman for three quarters of the Whites’ 2022 World Cup qualifying defeat to Thailand – nearly a year to the day since his last start for the national team.
The 28-year-old Al Jazira playmaker played 72 largely inconspicuous minutes in the 2-1 defeat in Rangsit, although there were occasional flashes of the trademark brilliance and vision that have hallmarked the career of the exalted ‘Amoory’.
Fears arose post-match that Van Marwijk might have “exposed him to exhaustion” but the Dutchman said his decision to start the talismanic former Al Ain and Al Hilal midfielder was justified, labelling him “one of the best players” in Asia.
“I am a big fan of the player who is one of the best players at the Asian level and among the best I have trained during my career,” said 67-year-old Van Marwijk, who suffered his maiden defeat as UAE coach.
“And when I made a decision for him to participate, essentially I had goals from that participation, which means I made the right decision.
“I took him out after 70 minutes for more goals and a substitute can make a difference, and indeed the team had several chances to win the game.”
It is the most action Abdulrahman has been exposed to since returning to the UAE with the Pride of Abu Dhabi after an ill-fated spell at boyhood club Hilal, cut short following a devastating knee injury towards the end of 2018.
In five previous outings since missing 10 months of action, Amoory has only played sparingly in UAE qualifying wins against Malaysia (17 minutes) and Indonesia (31) and three Jazira games – totalling 103 minutes – as he eases back into action.
Van Marwijk expressed sadness and frustration at defeat to the War Elephants – their first in three Group G games, the second round of Asian qualifying, which leaves them a point adrift of them and Vietnam, the joint leaders.
It was also a first defeat for Van Marwijk in seven games since taking the UAE reins in March – having opened with five wins and a draw.
“I am not satisfied with the performance,” he said.
“However we almost won, especially from the opportunities in the second half and the final minutes of the game.
“The result is normal, especially after the performance of Thailand, who deserved to take the lead and win.
“And although I was happy with the goal scored by Ali Mabkhout at the end of the first half I was saddened after they scored their second goal, which frustrated me. We have not managed to translate the opportunities that we had into goals.”
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