Football: Mahdi blames refs error
UAE's striker Ali Ahmed Mabkhout vie for the ball against Australia Tomas Rogic during match in Abu Dhabi.
Head coach Mahdi Ali blamed refereeing error for the UAE's 1-0 loss to Australia in the 2018 World Cup qualifying match to Australia and said it wasn't the 'end of the world'.
"It was a foul and shouldn't have been a goal," the national coach said referring to the incident before Tim Cahill scored the match-winning goal for Australia at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night.
The veteran Australian star slotted in Brad Smith's cross but not before pushing away defender Mohanad Salem. But Malaysian referee Mohammed Amirul had ignored more bitter challenges than that.
"We have lost this match because of the mistake made by the referee. We won an away match against Japan. Overall, I am happy with the performance," the coach said at a post-match Press conference.
Ali accepted that the 'Whites' failed to convert their chances. "Both teams played a great game. We didn't convert the chances we had whereas they did. We have to accept that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose football games," he said.
Defending his players' poor conversions, he said: "Sometimes it happens. We have to consider the weather and fatigue of the players. In Japan, we were fresh but now we are a bit tired." Ali remained optimistic about qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
"This is not the end of the world. We have to believe in our dream and fight for that. We still have our chances. Nobody expected us to beat Japan in their home. So anything is still possible in this group."
He thanked and apologised to the fans. "I hope the team get better from here on. Our future will be good," Ali said.
On the wins pocketed by Japan and Saudi Arabia and the effects those results will have on Group B, he said: "It's too early to pass a judgment. There are still a lot of matches left. We remain hopeful."
Meanwhile, Australian coach Ange Postecoglou termed Tim Cahill as the perfect team man.
"He is always there in case we need him. On a night when we were missing the skipper, his experience was of immense help in the midfield. He made a big difference," Postecoglou said.
The coach is happy to have won three more points. "Winning an away match is always great. We took the game to them and made them sit back. It looked they would have been happy with a point. We kept going and got the goal we deserved."
Revealing his team's strategy, he said: "For us, the important thing was controlling the game. They had to chase the ball and could do it for a certain period only, especially with the heat. We were confident that we will wear them down. It was up to them to give us a fight."
Postecoglou felt the 'Whites' can still qualify. "They have a very good chance. This group is going to be very tough."