Juma Rabee, the UAE coach, told his players to forget about the two bizarre mistakes that led to the goals that resulted in a 2-1 loss to Japan as they began defence of their Asian Under 19 Championship yesterday in Zibo, China. "We made a couple of mistakes and that cost us the game," Rabee said. "But that's history now. We still have two games and we'll try to win them both. There were a lot of positives which we can take forward from the Japan match."
The game seemed to be heading for a draw after the UAE's Ahmed Khalil equalised with a minute left, latching onto a cross from Omar Abdulrahman. But a terrible fumble from Ahmed Mohammed, the UAE goalkeeper, provided the winner on a platter for Hiroshi Ibusuki. A minute into added time, what looked like a harmless cross from the left flank from Gotoku Sakai, was spilled by Mohammed at the feet of Ibuski, who gratefully accepted the invitation to tap home from six yards. Japan had taken the lead when Adana Rashid, the UAE defender, sliced the ball in to his own net when trying to cut out a cross in the 52nd minute of the match at the Zibo Sports Centre.
Khalil, who was the top scorer in the tournament two years ago in Saudi Arabia, set up Hassan Ali just past 60 minutes, but his teammate blazed over the bar. "We were attacking and created more scoring chances. Overall I am pretty happy how the boys played and I am sure they will come out from this defeat," Rabee said. "Mistakes happen in football and I don't blame anyone for that, particularly at this age-group level."
Keiichiro Nuno, the Japan coach, was delighted with the result but warned his players not to think all the hard work was over, with Vietnam and Jordan still to come in the group. "The UAE are a very strong team and we are pleased to win this match and get three points," Nuno was quoted as saying on the AFC website. "The first game is always very difficult, so I am delighted to come through this test.
"But despite that, I don't think this was the hardest match. Every game is difficult for different reasons, so we will now look at the remaining teams and decide how to prepare for the coming games." In the group's other game, Vietnam beat Jordan, the UAE's opponents tomorrow, 2-1. * Compiled by Amith Passela