UAE reach final World Cup qualifying round with 3-2 win
The UAE came up with a superb performance in the first half
The UAE had their hearts in their mouths in the dying moments of the do-or-die match after the talented Vietnam staged a spirited fightback on Tuesday night.
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But The Whites survived the late drama to move a step closer to reaching their first Fifa World Cup since 1990.
Bert Van Marwijk's men earned their tickets to the final round of the Asian World Cup qualifiers with a 3-2 victory over Vietnam in the Group G clash at the Zabeel Stadium on Tuesday night.
Barring a few defensive lapses that led to the two late Vietnam goals in the 85th minute and in the third minute of injury time, the UAE produced their most impressive performance of the qualifying campaign.
After conceding just two goals in seven Group G matches, the watertight Vietnamese back-line was swept away by the wave of UAE attacks in the winner-take-all clash in Dubai.
The prolific Ali Mabkhout brought his famous scoring boots again, calmly converting a 40th minute penalty - eight minutes after Ali Salmeen had given the home team the lead, showing beautiful first touch and an exquisite finish off a sumptuous Abdullah Ramadan through ball.
While the UAE scored 12 goals in their three straight wins over Malaysia (4-0), Thailand (3-1) and Indonesia (5-0), their best performance came in the first half against Vietnam, the team that had occupied the top position in the group going into Tuesday's clash.
Vietnam are a team that like to play possession-based football with their speedy and skillful players even tormenting the mighty Japan in the narrow 1-0 quarterfinal defeat at the 2019 Asian Cup in Dubai.
But in the same city on Tuesday night, the Vietnamese ran into an inspired UAE team that bossed the midfield with masculinity as well as their majestic range of passing.
And The Whites' third goal was also the result of their midfield mastery.
After another flowing move, Bandar Al Ahbabi found space in the right to send a teasing cross into the box.
The wonderful Fabio Lima jumped high to connect the ball, but Vietnam goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong parried the header, only for Mahmoud Khamis to head home the rebound in the 50th minute.
Inspired by a resounding 3-0 lead over a technically gifted team, the UAE continued to dominate the middle of the park and could have extended the lead if not for some desperate saves from the Vietnam goalkeeper.
But Tien Linh Nguyen started a late Vietnam fightback with a superb goal in the 85th minute, having received a through ball from Tran Minh Vuong, the second half substitute.
Minh Vuong then capitalised on a rare mistake from the UAE goalkeeper Ali Khaseif to score Vietnam's second goal in the third minute of injury time.
But the UAE survived to turn their fortunes around, jumping from fourth position to the first in Group G with their fourth straight win since the resumption of the qualifiers on June 3 in Dubai.
Despite the heartbreaking defeat, Vietnam also booked their place in the final round as one of the four best runners-up teams across eight groups.
UAE 3 Vietnam 2
Thailand 0 Malaysia 1
Team P W D L F A P
UAE 8 6 0 2 23 7 18
Vietnam 8 5 2 1 13 5 17
Malaysia 8 4 0 4 10 12 12
Thailand 8 2 3 3 9 9 9
Indonesia 8 0 1 7 5 27 1
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