We do not depend on any star player: Mahdi

ABU DHABI - Mahdi Ali’s philosophy to coaching is different from the rest of the bunch. Instilled as UAE coach last August, for the Emirati, it is not about star players or individuals but more about team work. Each player should earn his place in the team. That is his mantra.

By James Jose

Published: Mon 25 Mar 2013, 12:52 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:06 AM

Much was made about star playmaker Omar Abdulrahman’s absence in the UAE squad due to injury, going into the fixture against Uzbekistan. But the UAE fought bravely to rally from a goal down to defeat the Uzbeks 2-1 in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Friday night.

And Mahdi Ali said that the UAE doesn’t depend on any star player and works as a group.

“We do not depend on any star player. We work as a group. Tonight, the team proved that they can overcome a player’s absence and we did well,” Mahdi Ali said.

The UAE had opened their qualifying campaign with an away victory over Vietnam and the win over the Uzbeks has made their path easier of making it to Australia in 2015. But Mahdi Ali prefers to take it one step at a time.

“This is the second step for our qualifying. We still have four steps. I’m happy with the result. The players worked very hard. We didn’t score in the first half. Things didn’t work very well in the first half. We made changes in the second half and it changed the game,” he said.

One of those changes was bringing in regular captain Ismail Matar at the start of the second half, in place of Ismail Al Hammadi, who had taken Omar’s place in the line-up.

“Matar played a crucial role. He was attacking and also went back in defence, which you didn’t see him do before. He worked very hard for the team,” said Ali.

Amer Abdulrahman, played admirably well in Omar’s absence and set up both goals for the UAE.

“Amer played very well. We have seen Amer coming back from injury after the Oman game in Gulg Cup. He started well and is going higher and higher. He has achieved a good level. He is a talented player and a good playmaker for the team,” he said.

But Mahdi Ali was more pleased that more and more fans turned up to support the team, which wasn’t the case before.

The game was watched by a crowd of 28,357.

“I’m happy that all the fans started coming back and supported the team. The fans have confidence in the team now. I thank them for being in the game because for the past few years we haven’t seen fans coming to support the team. This was good for the players. Although we conceded a goal, they kept supporting us in this game like they did in the Gulf Cup,” Ali said.

Meanwile, Uzbekistan coach Mirdjalal Kasimov said that they didn’t deserve the result and felt they could have drawn the game.

“It was an interesting game for both teams and especially for the football fans. My team played well in the first half. But two minutes in the second half was very decisive for the UAE team. Though we were losing the game, we had a number of chances to equalise. But we were very unlucky. We didn’t deserve this result. I think we could have drawn this game,” said Kasimov.

Despite being third behind the UAE and Hong Kong in Group E, Kasimov felt they are still in with a chance to qualify. Uzbekistan were held to a goalless draw in their first game against Hong Kong.

“It is not the end of life. We still have a chance. It is just the second matchday. We still have a chance to improve in the future,” he said.


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