Mahdi Ali vows UAE will bounce back after Saudi Arabia defeat
UAE national football team
UAE coach Mahdi Ali vowed his side will bounce back from their costly 2-1 defeat away to Saudi Arabia in the second round of 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifying at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah on Thursday.
Saudi’s Mohammad Al Sahlawi cancelled out Ahmad Khalil’s 18th minute free-kick before the interval and then converted from the spot on 90 minutes after Omar Abdul Rahman was adjudged to have brought down Nawaf Al Abid inside the box.
Although it was a reckless lunge from Omar, there didn’t appear to be any contact on the theatrical Al Abid and in the end the UAE were unlucky to go home without a point despite the Green Falcons dominating.
Group leaders Saudi Arabia moved five points clear of second-placed UAE with this victory. And, with only the top sides from all eight groups guaranteed progress to the third round of qualification — along with the four best runners-up — the UAE now have just four games to either catch their neighbours or drastically improve their position in the runners-up standings, where they are currently bottom of the eight second-placed teams.
UAE coach Mahdi Ali said despite the defeat all was not lost.
“Saudi Arabia was the better team,” Ali admitted. “We suffered on the physical level and couldn’t offer the required performance and didn’t show the image that we are used to, but now we must seek to compensate in forthcoming fixtures.”
UAE Football Association president Yousuf Al Sarkal added that the team could still qualify despite their current standing.
“These are the kind of matches where you need big focus or you know you’ll lose. It didn’t look like a penalty at the end, but [refereeing] mistakes are part of the game. Now we have to turn this page and pay attention to the next matches, but the opportunity still exists.
“It was possible to come away with at least a draw, especially as we took the lead, but Saudi Arabia was the better team.”
UAE defender Muhannad Salem agreed, saying: “We made many mistakes, which we will seek to repair in the coming period, most notably in the decline of performance after scoring the first goal, when we were supposed to have pressed further.”
Saudi Arabia coach Bert van Marwijk, meanwhile, praised his side’s performance.
“We deserved to win after intensive work in the last period, and I congratulate the players and the technical level of the positive result,” the former Netherlands boss said.
“When I’ve had to tell the players in the past when they’ve played badly I’ve said it, but likewise today I have to tell them they played great.”
On Thursday night, the UAE took the lead by complete surprise with their only notable shot on target — a long-range free-kick from Khalil swinging in to the top left corner from 30 yards.
From there they managed to contain the hosts but for two lapses in concentration to allow Al Sahlawi to tap in Abdullah Al Dossary’s cross from a failed clearance on 45 minutes, and the same player to complete his brace before time after a crazed attempt at a clearance from Omar.
- Gulf Cup: Qatar defeat Saudi Arabia for third title
- Mahdi Ali admits UAE Football Association will decide his future
- Palestine’s poor pitch major factor in UAE’s goalless draw, says Mahdi Ali
- Mahdi Ali believes UAE will be ready for all scenarios against Malaysia
- UAE unanimously backed to host 2019 Asian Cup