2018 World Cup qualifier: Australia’s Tim Cahill comes off the bench to score and break UAE hearts
UAE 0 1 Australia 1 (Cahill 75’)
Man of the match: Aaron Mooy (Australia)
ABU DHABI // The UAE went down 1-0 to Asian champions Australia in the 2018 World Cup qualifier at a crammed Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night.
The hosts, who began their Group B campaign last week with a shock victory against Japan, were far from their best in painfully hot and humid conditions in the capital, and losing to substitute Tim Cahill’s 75th-minute winner. The neat finish from Australia’s all-time leading scorer means the UAE emerge from the daunting double-header with three points.
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Mahdi Ali’s men began confidently, with Omar Abdulrahman first releasing Ali Mabkhout and Ismail Al Hammadi with defence-splitting passes, but neither teammate could take advantage. Al Hammadi did sting the palms of Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan with a fierce drive, though.
The best chance of the opening exchanges fell to the visitors, when a mix-up between Ismail Ahmed and Amer Abdulrahman on 18 minutes allowed Robbie Kruse a free run on goal, but his low shot was well saved by Khalid Essa. It was the second time Essa was called into action within the space of a minute: moments before, centre-back Trent Sainsbury had tested the UAE goalkeeper with a header from a corner.
The sapping conditions soon took their toll, with little opportunities created by either side, although Essa had to be alert on the stroke of half time. Tom Rogic wriggled free of the UAE defence on the edge of the penalty area, only to watch as Essa beat away his deflected shot.
Australia, captained by Baniyas midfielder Mark Milligan, were much more physical than their opponents, much to the increasing annoyance of UAE manager Mahdi Ali and his players. Not long into the second half, Tomic riled the home side after a late challenge on Amer Abdulrahman.
Both teams almost broke the deadlock on the hour mark, when Aaron Mooy struck the UAE crossbar and then Mabkhout failed to direct Al Hammadi’s excellent centre on the Australian goal. At the other end, Sainsbury also missed the target from a Mooy free kick.
However, Cahill made no mistake minutes after being introduced, the former Everton midfielder coolly side-footing home Brad Smith’s inviting cross that drew Essa well off his line. The UAE attempted to salvage a point in the closing stages, but never really troubled Ryan despite dominating possession.
The Emiratis next play Thailand in Group B on October 6 before the crucial clash at Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia five days later.
Published: September 6, 2016 04:00 AM