Palestine’s poor pitch major factor in UAE’s goalless draw, says Mahdi Ali

Palestine’s poor pitch major factor in UAE’s goalless draw, says Mahdi Ali
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Published September 10th, 2015 - 16:48 GMT via

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Mahdi Ali
Mahdi Ali

Palestine’s poor pitch could play a decisive role in who progresses from the UAE’s Fifa 2018 World Cup qualifying group, according to the Whites coach Mahdi Ali.

An aggrieved Ali said the artificial turf at the Faisal Al Hussaini International Stadium in Ramallah was not Fifa approved and had stymied his side’s attacking ambition in Tuesday’s goalless draw in Asian zone Group A.

However, he drew comfort from the fact that all of the other teams in the group have yet to play Palestine in the West Bank, including major rivals Saudi Arabia, whom the UAE face next on October 8 away.

Ali said: “Now we forget about our game with Palestine and think about the next game against Saudi, which we will try to win. The opportunity still exists to compete strongly and qualify from our group and it is worth noting that the rest of the teams will play on the same pitch, and thus will suffer the same conditions that we experienced.

“The main problem for us was the pitch, which was very difficult to play on, and I don’t think it’s been approved by Fifa.”

The UAE were far from their free-flowing best against the plucky Palestinians, who were playing only their fourth competitive fixture at home and first since 2011 in front of their lively fans, who chanted relentlessly.

Their trademark passing fluency and incision were both missing, with miscontrols and long balls a recurring theme of a lacklustre encounter in which chances were at a premium.

It was a far cry from last Thursday’s 10-0 massacre of Malaysia, with the contrast particularly stark for the four-goal hero at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium, Ahmad Khalil.

The Al Ahli striker had three decent second-half opportunities to score, but lacked the ruthless finishing which embellished a glorious night in Abu Dhabi.

Ali added: “We had three chances to score and in such games and we must not waste any opportunity to score. The point is not to our satisfaction, as we had been striving to win, but it did not materialise.”

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Ali Khaseif said he was proud to have taken part in such a historic game and praised the enthusiasm of the Palestinian fans, but agreed with Ali that their lack of training on an “abnormal and cumbersome artificial turf” had hindered the UAE.

Palestine’s assistant coach, Noureddine Ould Ali, said his team had strived to win from the start and had suffered from not playing competitive fixtures at home.

He also lauded the 15,000-plus home supporters’ boisterous backing, saying it had imbued his men with “fighting spirit”.

The UAE remain top of Group A on seven points, one ahead of Saudi Arabia, whose away match with Malaysia on Tuesday evening was abandoned after 87 minutes following crowd disturbances.

A Fifa inquiry will determine the outcome of this.

The UAE will play East Timor, whom they beat 1-0 away in neutral Malaysia in their opening qualifier, at home on November 12.

If successful in progressing to Russia 2018, it would be only the second time the Whites have reached the global showpiece after they competed at the 1990 tournament in Italy.

Top teams from all eight second-round World Cup qualifying groups progress to the third round, along with the four best runners-up. In the third round, which comprises two groups of six teams, the top two will qualify for the World Cup, while the two third-placed sides will enter intercontinental play-offs.

© Al Nisr Publishing LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

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