Paulo Bento sees room for improvement after UAE VAR intervention in win over Hong Kong

National team were tested during their opening match of Asian Cup

UAE manager Paulo Bento during the Asian Cup match against Hong Kong at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar. Reuters
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UAE manager Paulo Bento sees the glass as half full after the national team survived several anxious moments during their opening clash of the 2023 Asian Cup before beating Hong Kong 3-1.

Two of the UAE's goals came from VAR-ruled penalties, while a late Hong Kong goal was chalked off after the referee checked the screen at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar.

Bento said he was not too worried about his team’s reliance on penalties to secure victory.

“If a team is being awarded penalties, it means they have repeatedly entered the opponents’ penalty area and given them trouble. That’s not easy to do,” said the Portuguese.

“Penalties are part of set-piece play and many historic matches have been decided by them, so I don’t think having to rely on penalties has any negative connotation.

“Moreover, I am very pleased with the outcome of the match as it helped us achieve our main target – to come back with three points.”

Hong Kong are ranked 150th in the world by Fifa but they held their own against the UAE.

The UAE went ahead as referee Muhammad Taqi was called to the pitch-side screen to rule on a possible handball in the box by Hong Kong defender Oliver Gerbig. After a lengthy check, a penalty was given and duly converted by Sultan Adil.

Hong Kong levelled four minutes after the break, Philip Chan bundling home an Everton Camargo cross.

The UAE regained the lead almost instantly through Zayed Sultan as he slotted the ball into an unguarded net.

As the clock ticked down, Hong Kong pushed for a second equaliser, their chances helped by the addition of 10 minutes' stoppage time.

But after a third VAR check against them, the referee pointed once again to the spot and Yahya Al Ghassani converted from the penalty spot.

Hong Kong had the ball in the net one last time, but VAR intervened to deny them.

While Bento remained upbeat, the Portuguese acknowledged that there are a few areas that the team need to work on.

“While I am pleased with the performance of my team, there are areas we need to work on. In both halves of the match, we squandered chances. Many of the players, including Sultan [Adil], were exhausted towards the end of the game. So, we will first concentrate on their recovery,” added Bento.

Adil, who was named player of the match, was pleased to contribute to UAE’s win.

“The first win is always important and I am so happy to have scored the first UAE goal in the competition. I promise I won't let my guard down,” said Adil.

“The idea was to score and successfully converting penalties only means we have made the most of a situation that was presented before us.”

Jorn Andersen praised Hong Kong for their fighting spirit, and singled out Chan, who scored the tournament’s 1,000th goal, for special praise.

“Obviously, a lot of things did not go our way but I want to congratulate my team for their spirited performance, especially Philip on his historic achievement. He is ever reliable and can always be found in the right place and at the right time” said the Norwegian.

The UAE's next Group C match is against Palestine on Thursday.

Updated: January 15, 2024, 9:04 AM