World Cup qualifier: UAE beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 to keep dream alive

Published August 29th, 2017 - 08:01 GMT
UAE's players pose for a picture before the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football match between UAE and Saudi Arabia at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al-Ain on August 29, 2017.
GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP
UAE's players pose for a picture before the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football match between UAE and Saudi Arabia at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al-Ain on August 29, 2017. GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP

A 10-man UAE outclassed Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the Group B qualifiers of the 2018 Fifa World Cup to keep their dream date with Russia intact.

Goals from Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout were enough for the win at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night.

Despite the win, the UAE remained fourth on the table but with 13 points managed to keep their hopes of qualification alive.

The UAE took to field without their mainstay Omar Abdulrahman and other key players but the team showed grit and determination to win.

In a must-win scenario, coach Edgardo Bauza showed attacking instincts by fielding Ahmed Khalil, Ali Mabkhout and experienced Ismail Matar from the start.

And in the early proceedings, the UAE kept pressure as the Saudis were happy sitting back. The match came to life by the 10th minute as Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al Sahlawi pulled out a header from the centre of the box. The UAE responded with an attempt by Mabkhout from Tariq Ahmed's header.

The goal finally came as wily Nawaf Al Abid drew a foul in the penalty area. The referee found Mohamed Fawzi guilty of bringing down Abid. And the Saudi midfielder had keeper Khalid Eisa go the wrong way to make it 1-0.

However, the UAE responded immediately as an alert Tariq Ahmed found Mabkhout inside the danger area and the Al Jazira star craftily controlled the ball to drill it past Abdullah Al Mayouf into the left corner.

The UAE showed hunger for a win. It was a team desperate to prove their credentials without prowess of Omar.

After the break, Saudi Arabia played aggressively and in the 53rd minute, defender Osama Hawsawi hit the crossbar with a header from the Nawaf Al Abid's corner. And minutes later, midfielder Yahia Al Shehri's narrowly missed the mark with his header. The 'Green brigade' were seizing control and just then out of the blue, Khalil pulled a stunner with his right foot to put the 'Whites' ahead. Khalil, like he has often done in the past, scored a long-ranger that a keeper couldn't keep out.

In another blow, Bauza had to replace an injured Mabkhout with Salem Saleh.

The Saudis continued to push but a resilient backline of Mohanad Salem and company blocked each attack. And with 20 minutes to go Mohamed Abdulrahman replaced Ahmed Barman. And with 15 minutes, skipper Matar made way for Habib Fardan. Bauza's message was clear - defend the one-goal advantage.

Khalil, however, could have killed the contest but he shot wide when inside the danger area.

At the other end it was the young Saudi substitute Fahad Al Muwallad, who created problems. The livewire midfielder kept both Khamis Esmaeel and Mahmoud Al Hammadi busy.

And in the closing stages, Al Hammadi was handed a second yellow for challenge on Muwallad. And despite some nervous moments at the end, the UAE held onto a famous win. Now, it's all to play for the UAE as they face Iraq on September 5. 

Goals

UAE: Ali Mabkhout (21), Ahmed Khalil (60)

Saudi Arabia: Nawaf Al Abid (20 P)

By Ashwani Kumar


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