A late strike from Ahmed Khalil set-up a 1-0 victory for the UAE over Saudi Arabia and booked a place in the semi-final of the Gulf Cup under 23 at the Aspire Academy Stadium in Qatar last night. Khalil, the 2008 Asian Youth Player of the Year, was on target with a free kick from just outside the top edge box six minutes from time to secure the win that puts the UAE on top of the group B with three points.
They face Kuwait, who drew 1-1 with the Saudis, in tomorrow's final match of the group stage. The UAE were in complete control and could have taken the lead had Abdulaziz Sangor been on target in front of an empty goal in the 23rd minute. Ali Makhbout drew the Saudi defence before slipping a neat pass towards Sangor, who only succeeded in hitting the crossbar. The UAE created plenty of chances in the first half but they either broke down because of poor finish or were off target.
Amer Abdulrahman and Omar Abdulrahman's efforts from outside the box were well held by the Saudi stopper, and Makhbout was off-target twice from close range. Makhbout was replaced in the second half by Khalil, but the Saudis put up a much better resistance in the second half to prevent the UAE of any realistic chance of scoring until the free kick when Ahmed Ali was felled by Mutaz. Oman meanwhile booked their place in the semi-final with another impressive 2-0 win over Bahrain in the earlier game in Group A.
Nasir al Shimli put them ahead in the 10th minute and Mansoor al Nuaimi scored from the spot eight minutes from time to complete their second win, leaving Bahrain to battle it out against Qatar, the host, for the remaining spot. email@example.com