Gulf Cup: UAE exit despite an improved show

Rituraj Borkakoty/Dubai
Filed on December 2, 2019
The UAE's Ali Mabkhout and Qatar's Boualem Khoukhi vie for the ball during the Gulf Cup match on Monday (Reuters)

Meanwhile, 10-man Iraq topped Group A despite being held to a goalless draw by Yemen

The UAE coach Bert van Marwijk was confident before their must-win Gulf Cup Group A game against Qatar, saying his team knew how to beat the Asian champions in Monday's virtual quarterfinal.

The Whites needed all three points to enter the semis, while Qatar needed only a draw after their 6-0 win over Yemen put them in second place in the group on goal difference.

In the end, it was Qatar that booked their place in the last-four with a 4-2 over the UAE at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday - a result that will now put more pressure on Van Marwijk.

With his team sitting precariously outside the qualifying spots for the next round of the 2022 AFC World Cup qualifiers, Van Marwijk needed a deep run into the Gulf Cup to inspire his team for the tougher competitions ahead.

But his young team, despite showing glimpses of their potential, lacked the experience.

And it was Ali Mabkhout, the UAE's all-time leading scorer, who gave The Whites supporters reasons to celebrate with his never-say die spirit and two wonderful goals.

Having gone one goal up in the 20th minute with a crisp finish from Akram Afif, the home team began dominating the midfield. Eight minutes later Qatar doubled their lead as Afif scored his second goal of the night from the penalty spot.

But in the 33rd minute, Bandar Al Ahbabi pounced on a defence-splitting pass only to be fouled by Qatar goalkeeper Al Sheeb inside the box as the referee pointed to the spot.

And Ali Mabkhout scored with an impressive right-footer. The goal reinvigorated Van Marwijk's men as they looked much more confident on the ball. But a defensive lapse from the UAE in the 53rd minute allowed Hassan Al Haydos to write his name in the scoresheet, giving his team a two-goal cushion.

Now needing three goals to clear the path to the semis, the UAE continued to press for goals and it was Ali Mabkhout again who rose to the challenge with his wonderful strike from the edge of the box in the 77th minute kept the UAE hopes alive.

The Qataris, though, were resolute in defence even as the UAE came in waves. Then in the 94th minute, it was the home team that found the goal with central defender Boualem Khoukhi's header from a corner earning a 4-2 win and a place in the semifinals.

The UAE may have failed in their attempt to reach the knockout stages, but they played much better than they did in the second Group A game against Iraq which they lost 2-0.

Meanwhile, 10-man Iraq topped Group A despite being held to a goalless draw by Yemen on Monday.


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