Mission half completed as UAE notch up second straight win - GulfToday

Mission half completed as UAE notch up second straight win

UAE Football

Players of the UAE and Thailand vie for the ball during their joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asia Cup qualifier match at the Zabeel Stadium on Monday. Mohamed Shaalan/Al Khaleej

Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter

The Brazilian duo of Caio Canedo and Fabio Lima were on target and substitute Mohammad Juma Eid added one more in the dying moments as the UAE defeated Thailand 3-1 in their joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asia Cup qualifier match at the Zabeel Stadium on Monday.

With the second successive victory, the UAE have kept their qualification hopes alive. The UAE needed to win all their four remaining matches to progress to the next round.

With two straight wins, the picture looks rosier now and the target within reach.  After the victory, the UAE consolidated their position in the second spot as the leaders Vietnam kept their stranglehold on the top of Group G with a 4-0 rout of Indonesia in the other match of the day. Only the winners and the four best runners-up will automatically advance to the next round. Referee Ryuji Sato awarded Thailand a free kick in the sixth minute but the UAE goalkeeper Ali Kahseif Humaid made a brilliant save to all but end the visitors’ hopes of taking an early lead.

The UAE defenders frustrated Thailand with a sublime display of technique and skill. They just kept the ball rolling among themselves to keep the possession.

Caio once again proved his worth as he slotted the opener from a long range in the 14th minute to put the hosts 1-0 ahead.

Thailand came close to equalling the scores in the 18th minute but Ekanti Panya’s misdirected strike went over the net.

The Whites could have doubled their lead four minutes later but Ali Mabkhout failed to execute a shot and sent it over the goalpost. He squandered another chance to add to their score a few minutes later as his shot went wide to the left off the net.

However, the UAE kept on attacking with the Brazilian duo and Ali Mabkhout creating chances every now and then to mount pressure on the visitors.

In the 33rd minute, Fabio headed a pass from Mohammad Bandar straight into the net, making it 2-0. A lurking Fabio pounced on a perfect pass from Bandar to slot the second one home for the hosts. In the second-half, Thailand played some attacking football and did try to restore the parity but an agile UAE goalkeeper Kahseif kept them at bay.

Finally, Suphanat Mueanta broke the deadlock for Thailand as he found the back of the net in the 54th minute to curtail the lead to 2-1.

But in the extra time, Juma Eid was also in the thick of the action as he put the ball into the net with a clean strike from the right corner of the box.

In the first leg of the World Cup qualifiers, Thailand had defeated the UAE 2-1 in 2019 to put the brakes on their winning run after the Whites had started off promisingly with successive wins against Indonesia and Malaysia.

Bert Van Marwijk, who returned to the UAE for his second stint as a coach, was at the helm then. However, Van Marwijk conceded before the match the present UAE squad is better than the erstwhile team, which lost to Thailand in the first leg. UAE have bolstered their squad with a few new recruitments, adding tooth to their attack as well as making their defence stronger.

The UAE gave nationality to three Brazilians --  Sebastian Tagliabue, Candeo and Lima - which qualified them to represent the Gulf nation at the 2022 World Cup.

The trio are the first Latin Americans to represent the UAE at the international level. The move to naturalise the Brazilian imports has been prompted by the UAE FA’s decision to boost their hopes of qualification for the showpiece event in Qatar.

The White made their only appearance in the global event back in 1990. It is the golden opportunity for the Whites to make their presence felt at the international level once again.

Meanwhile, the catch-up game between India’s Sunil Chhetri and UAE Ali Mabkhout continues. In the last match against Malaysia, Ali Makhout had surpassed Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Chhetri with a brace to take his tally goals to 73 in international matches.

But Chhetri struck twice in the closing minutes against Bangladesh as India boosted their hopes of sealing a place in the third round of the Asian Qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023. In the process, Chhetri once again crossed Ali Mabkhout, taking his tally to 74.

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