ABU DHABI // UAE coach Mahdi Ali warned his players that they have achieved only the first of their four targets following Thursday night’s comprehensive 8-0 thrashing of East Timor in 2018 World Cup qualifying.
Ahmed Khalil led the scoring with half the goals at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, while strike partner Ali Mabkhout grabbed two goals with both Dawood Ali and Ahmed Al Attas also on the scoresheet.
For Mahdi Ali though, it was just one more game to tick off the checklist, with an away assignment against Malaysia up next, before two home fixtures against Palestine and Saudi Arabia next year.
“From now on our focus is on the next game against Malaysia and we want to play with the same intensity as we played against East Timor,” he said.
The UAE travel to play Malaysia on Tuesday but their biggest test is to come in March and the final two games in Group A, against Palestine, on March 24, and leaders Saudi Arabia five days later, both in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE were on the offensive from the word go and the only real surprise is that it took them 15 minutes to open the scoring, Mabkhout prodding in from close range after Ismail Al Hammadi’s header fell invitingly for the UAE striker.
The Al Jazira player, playing on his home pitch, doubled the lead six minutes later, blasting in a rebound after a powerfully struck shot from Ismail Ahmed was blocked by a Timorese defender.
Khalil got his first of the night just before the interval. The captain hammered home after the Timorese defender Ervino Soares fumbled and failed to clear a low cross from Mohammed Fawzi.
The second half started much like the first one ended – with the UAE on the front foot. Dawood Ali, the second-half substitute, headed wide in front of goal and Mabkhout’s effort was well saved by goalkeeper Aderito Fernandes.
The breakthrough did come in the 53rd minute though when Mabkhout was brought down in the area by Armando Varela. Khalil was spot on with the penalty.
Dawood Ali made it 5-0 less than 60 seconds later before Khalil scored twice in two minutes. The Al Ahli frontman completed his hat-trick on 56 minutes by tapping in a short pass from Mabkhout and was celebrating again soon after with his fourth goal of the evening.
Ahmed Al Attas, 21, who plays his club football for Al Jazira, celebrated his first goal for the national team in only his second game after coming on as a late substitute to complete the rout three minutes from time.
“It takes a little time for any team to get to know the opponents on the pitch and once the players got to know their strategy and then we attacked from the two sides to break the deadlock,” Mahdi Ali said. “Tonight the players didn’t hold back possession but tried to shoot at the goal on every opportunity. And it worked out well for us.”
East Timor coach Fernando Alcantara dropped his seven Brazilian-born players for the match to give his indigenous players more international experience, including 16-year-old striker Abilio Vieira.
“The instructions to experiment with the young Timorese players came from the football hierarchy, but as coach I take the full responsibility of the result,” he said. “We had only five professional players and the remaining players were all under 19 and the No 9 was only 16.”
Vieira made his entrance when East Timor were already trailing 7-0 and Alcantara said at that point it did not matter if they lost by 7-0 or 10-0.
“I wanted to get some of the younger players a feel of the game.
“Our strategy was to defend and use the counter attack but we came across a strong opponent,” Alcantara said.
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