The UAE's hopes of a second successive victory were ruined by a solid Germany side in the four-team friendly Under 19 tournament. The national team lost 1-0 to a goal from Abubaker Kargbo early in the second half at the Tahnoun bin Mohammed Stadium in Al Ain last night. Kargbo hammered home from point-blank range after a corner was deflected off a defender and fell in to his path in the 47th minute. The Germans, who were well organised in defence, preserved the lead to win their first points after going down 1-0 to South Korea in their opening game on Wednesday.
The UAE had a couple of chances to take the lead in the first half. Saqer Mohammed's dipping free kick from 40 yards bounced off the crossbar in the 15th minute and Salem Saleh made a weak poke in front of goal eight minutes later. Mohammed Yousef, the Emirati goalkeeper, did well to keep out Baris Orucu's powerful shot from the edge of the box in a first half in which most of the play was confined to the midfield.
The UAE showed more urgency after the visitors had scored but they were not able to get close enough to threaten the German goal. And, after having taken the lead, the Germans seemed more concerned with protecting their advantage than trying to add a second. The UAE, who won their opener against Egypt, face South Korea in tomorrow's final day of competition while Germany play Egypt. Meanwhile, Josef Hickersberger, the Al Wahda coach, has warned his team the hardest part of the season is yet to come despite extending their lead at the top of the Pro League to five points after a 1-0 win at Al Ain on Friday. There are four games remaining.
"Everyone around me seems to think the difficult part is over, but for me, it lies ahead," the Austrian said after Ismail Matar's 37th minute goal sealed victory. "They seem to think we have already won the league when actually we haven't. "This brings about a fear in me that my players will lose their seriousness in the upcoming games. "Our next game is with Emirate [on April 24] and don't forget they put us out of the President's Cup.
"They are fighting relegation and this game is more important for them and I would expect them to fight like a cornered lion. "We still have 12 points to play for, and so do Al Jazira, our closest challenger. "I am not saying the Al Ain game wasn't a turning point, it was indeed a very important result for us because of the sheer fact we had half our squad either suspended or injured. Of course it has put us in a strong position but we need to maintain this position."
Wahda's next game is against Sepahan of Iran in Group B of the Asian Champions League (ACL) at the Al Nahyan Stadium on Wednesday. With no hope of progressing in the competition, Hickersberger wants to use the game to give an outing to players who missed the Al Ain match. "Our chances in the ACL became difficult after losing the first two games, so we started to concentrate more on the domestic league," he said.
"We will make use of this match to sharpen up those who missed the Al Ain game." Haider Ali, Mahmoud Khamis, Talal Abdulla and Fernando Baiano are the players in question and most likely to get a full 90-minute workout. All four had to watch their team from the sidelines after the three Emiratis were dismissed in the Etisalat Cup semi-final defeat to Jazira, while Baiano, the Brazilian striker, was serving the second game of his three-match ban.
* Compiled by Amith Passela