AFC Asian Cup: Khalil's extra-time goal takes UAE into quarters

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AFC Asian Cup: Khalils extra-time goal takes UAE into quarters
The UAE's Ahmed Khalil celebrates with Ali Mabkhout after scoring a penalty against Kyrgyzstan.

Abu Dhabi - The UAE will now play Australia in the last eight at the iconic Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Friday.

By Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Tue 22 Jan 2019, 10:47 PM

Ahmed Khalil scored an extra-time winner as the UAE advanced to the quarterfinals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 by edging past Kyrgyzstan 3-2 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Monday night.
Earlier, Khamis Esmaeel netted for the UAE and Mirlan Murzaev levelled. The home team, sporting a mix of green and black, were cruising with Ali Mabkhout's second half strike but Tursunali Rustamov took the game to extra-time with header in additional time.
Despite the late blip, it was a much improved performance from the plucky UAE players who showed greater cohesion and meshed well. The UAE will now play Australia in the last eight at the iconic Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Friday.
The victory was result of the first team picked by UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni who continued his rotation policy and brought Khamis Esmaeel and Amer Abdulrahman back in the midfield. The Italian bestowed captaincy duties on Al Wahda veteran striker Ismail Matar and benched winger Ismail Al Hammadi. It was a major revamp of midfield and attacking position for the crucial clash.
In the early going the trio of Matar, Mabkhout and Khalfan Mubarak justified the changes as the UAE looked a better attacking unit. Amer and Khamis combined well in the midfield and churned out passes with elan to the attackers - an aspect missing so far in the tournament.
In nine minutes, the UAE had the first real chance as Ismail Ahmed met Matar's cross but the final header wasn't sharp.
The UAE pressed and bagged back-to-back corners. And each corner was taken in different styles with Matar being involved in orchestrations. His immediacy paid off as Khamis, positioned brilliantly in the centre of the goal, headed home the opener. It was Matar who curled the corner and Khalifa Ghanim headed into the box for Khamis to finish the job.
The visitors didn't cow down and pushed through attackers Mirlan Murzaev and Vitalij Lux. Kyrgyzstan finally breached the UAE defence through a well-scripted passing game. Kyrgyzstan defender Mustafa Iusupov crossed to midfielder Akhlidin Israilov, who tapped it into box for Murzaev and the striker dribbled past keeper Khalid Eisa to deposit the ball into the goal from a tight angle. Backline of Ghanim and Bandar Al Ahbabi lunged into the UAE goal but couldn't save Kyrgyzstan equaliser. Ghanim was injured during the failed rescue act and was replaced by Fares Juma.
The UAE could have regained lead after the breather but Mabkhout missed his mark on Al Ahbabi's cross from left flank. Al Ahbabi playing in advanced position lent more dynamism to attack.
With some 30 minutes left, Al Hammadi replaced Mubarak. There was a spark in proceedings and soon a goal came. Amer released a through ball to Mabkhout and Al Jazira striker timed his run to perfection before smacking the delivery home.
The UAE played with great vision and understanding. In 74 minutes, peerless Matar produced a classy lob into the box and Al Hammadi was on it but was ruled offside.
With some 10 minutes left, the skipper was substituted with Mohamed Gharib as the UAE intend to defend. And it was their undoing as Kyrgyzstan levelled through corner from Anton Zemlianukhin. Substitute Tursunali Rustamov header went past four defenders and Eisa into the net to push the game into extra time.
Mabkhout wasted sundry chances to find a winner. Just when it felt the rub of the green wasn't with the UAE, fortunes changed after Khalil's substitution. In 103 minutes, the UAE were awarded a penalty and the Shabab Al Ahli striker bolted into the left corner. The stadium erupted in joy and the UAE held nerves till the 120th minute.
With this the UAE have crossed their fourth hurdle with three more to go before they lift the coveted trophy at home in front of their fans.

GOALSUAE: Khamis Esmaeel (14), Ali Mabkhout (64), Ahmed Khalil (103)
Kyrgyzstan: Mirlan Murzaev (26), Tursunali Rustamov (91+)

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