UAE and Bahrain players vie for the ball during their friendly match in Dubai on Monday.
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
The UAE suffered a huge setback in their preparations for the joint qualifiers of 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup after going down 3-1 to Bahrain in a friendly match in Dubai on Monday.
Mohammed Al Romaihi scored a brace and Mohamed Marhoon added one more in the last moments to hand Bahrain a come-from-behind win.
After conceding 1-0 lead in the first-half, Bahrain staged a miraculous comeback to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat against a rampant UAE, who otherwise dominated most of the time.
It was just a tale of 11 minutes that changed the whole complexion of the game and shifted the equilibrium towards Bahrain.
It was the UAE, who dominated the game for almost 70 odd minutes before stuttering in the last 20 minutes to spurn the chance of posting another morale-boosting win on their home turf.
Caio Canedo found the back of the net in the 34th minute to break the deadlock and put the UAE 1-0 ahead. Both the teams tried hard but failed to score in the first half-hour. The UAE were playing a firebrand football as they kept attacking right from the word go to dominate their opponents.
Even after taking a 1-0 lead, UAE did not go into the defensive mode but kept on piling more pressure on Bahrain with their attacking game. Bahrain tried hard to restore the parity but could not create too many chances against a clinical UAE.
In the 75th minute, Bahrain finally levelled the score through Marhoon, who converted a penalty successfully into a goal to make it 1-1.
It opened the floodgates for Bahrain, who found a chink in UAE’s defence and added two more to their tally through Romaihi in the next 10 minutes.
Romaihi scored his first goal in the 82nd minute to put Bahrain ahead for the first time in the match. With time running out, the UAE did try to make inroads with some aggressive play but failed to convert their chances into goals. Four minutes later, Romaihi netted again to extend the lead to 3-1 and all but seal a victory for the visitors as UAE could not curtail the deficit, losing the match 3-1.
The loss against Bahrain, who are ten places down in FIFA world ranking to the UAE, can be seen as a wake-up call for the hosts. The UAE are pushing hard for their World Cup qualification and have made sweeping changes to realise their dream.
They have also granted the citizenship to three Brazilian footballers to bolster their national team ahead of the joint qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup.
Earlier, despite having the trio of Brazilian imports at his disposal, coach Jorge Luis Pinto included only Fabio Lima and Canedo in the starting line-up while Sebastian Tagliabue substituted Ahmed Ali Mabkhout in the 46th minute.
Mabkhout had scored two goals in their last match against Tajikistan to help them emerge winners. Pinto made as many as five substitutions, all in the second half to test the bench strength. He called back all the star players including scorer Canedo and Lima, which hurt the team badly. Pinto has been entrusted with the responsibility of taking the UAE through to the World Cup finals. The UAE need to win all their remaining four matches to keep their hopes alive.
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