Asian Cup: Perfect start as UAE beat Hong Kong 3-1 in opening match

Two of the UAE's goals came from VAR-ruled penalties


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UAE players celebrate their second goal against Hong Kong at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. — AFP
UAE players celebrate their second goal against Hong Kong at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. — AFP

Published: Sun 14 Jan 2024, 9:50 PM

Last updated: Sun 14 Jan 2024, 11:08 PM

The UAE got off to flying start at the AFC Asian Cup with a 3-1 victory over Hong Kong in their opening match in Qatar on Sunday.

This was Hong Kong's first Asian Cup match in over 55 years.

Two of the UAE's goals came from VAR-ruled penalties, while a late Hong Kong goal was chalked off after the referee checked the screen.

Coach Jorn Andersen warned his players before the game that the "gap is very big" between themselves and the continent's footballing elite.

But there was no yawning gulf in class as the tournament's lowest-ranked side kicked off their campaign.

In their first Asian Cup match since 1968, Hong Kong fell behind just after the half-hour mark.

Referee Muhammad Taqi was called to the pitch-side screen to rule on a possible handball in the box by Hong Kong defender Oliver Gerbig.

After a lengthy check, a penalty was given and duly converted by Sultan Adil.

Hong Kong levelled four minutes after the break, Philip Chan bundling home an Everton Camargo cross.

The UAE regained the lead almost instantly through Zayed Sultan as he slotted into an unguarded net.

With half an hour left, Andersen rolled the dice with an attacking double substitution, sending on forwards Stefan Pereira and Michael Udebuluzor.

Hong Kong defender Li Ngai-hoi then survived another VAR scare, his tackle in the box ruled legal.

As the clock ticked down Hong Kong pushed for a second equaliser, their chances helped by the addition of 10 minutes' stoppage time.

But after a third VAR check against them, the referee pointed once again to the spot and Yahya Al-Ghassani converted.

Hong Kong had the ball in the net one last time, but VAR intervened to deny them.

Meanwhile, favourites Japan survived a scare in their tournament opener on Sunday against Vietnam before winning 4-2 in a roller-coaster clash.

Hajime Moriyasu's side are looking for a record-extending fifth Asian title and looked set for a comfortable start to their campaign in Qatar when Takumi Minamino gave them an 11th-minute lead.

But Vietnam, who are coached by Japan's 2000 Asian Cup-winning boss Philippe Troussier, turned the game on its head with two goals midway through the first half.

Japan came roaring back before half-time, Minamino scoring a second before Keito Nakamura curled home a sublime effort to send them into the break with the lead.

The second half was a far more sedate affair until Japan substitute Ayase Ueda made the win safe with a fourth goal in the 86th minute.

Japan and Vietnam met in the quarter-finals of the last Asian Cup in 2019, with Japan winning 1-0 before losing to Qatar in the final.

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