UAE escape with point against Palestine in Asian Cup after Khalifa Al Hammadi red card

Paulo Bento’s side forced to play more than half of 1-1 draw with 10 men following sending off

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A 10-man UAE managed to escape with a point on Thursday night in their second Group C assignment at the Asian Cup, when they held Palestine to a 1-1 draw in Qatar.

Paulo Bento’s side, who opened the campaign with Sunday’s 3-1 win against Hong Kong, had gone 1-0 up at Al Janoub Stadium, thanks to 19-year-old striker Sultan Adil’s second goal in two games.

However, UAE defender Khalifa Al Hammadi was shown a straight red card on 39 minutes having given away a penalty – only for goalkeeper Khalid Essa to save Tamer Seyam’s spot-kick.

Palestine, searching for a first win at an Asian Cup and a rebound from their opening group defeat to Iran, did restore parity five minutes into the second half. It did not come from a player in Palestine red, however; UAE defender Bader Nasser nodded into his own net.

Bento, who was booked late in the first half, appeared to be sent to the stands late on.

With Iran and Hong Kong playing on Friday, the draw leaves each of the four teams in Group C with a chance at making the last 16.

On Thursday, as the rain fell initially in Al Wakrah, the UAE got off to a great start, seizing the lead midway through the first half. In the 23rd minute, Al Hammadi won back possession in the middle of the pitch, surged forward and found Ali Saleh on the right.

The Al Wasl captain, one of three changes in Paulo Bento’s starting XI, whipped a delicious cross to the back post, leaving Adil peeled from his marker to head home.

Just like he did on Asian Cup debut on Sunday, the young striker, favoured over UAE’s all-time leading goalscorer Ali Mabkhout had broken the deadlock.

However, Adil’s work was almost undone in an eventful five-minute spell just after the half hour. It began with Al Hammadi pulling down Palestine striker Oday Dabbagh in the UAE area.

After a lengthy VAR check, the official pointed to the spot, and then brandished a red card. The decision appeared harsh, but Al Hammadi was soon departing down the tunnel. He would not have therefore seen Essa’s perfect response, as the UAE captain dived to his right to repel Seyam’s penalty.

Growing increasingly frustrated on the touchline, Bento was shown a yellow card. The Portuguese’s decision, though, to replace forward Fabio De Lima with centre-back Khaled Al Hashemi did prove inspired: the Al Ain defender’s first contribution was to hack the ball off the UAE line following a deflection off Essa.

Al Hashemi and his team would soon breathe a collective sigh of relief deep into first-half stoppage time when, rising unmarked between two UAE defenders, Dabbagh headed inches over. He really should have scored.

On 50 minutes, though, Palestine were level. Seyam crossed from the left and, attempting to clear, Nasser stooped to head into his own goal. No matter who notched it, it represented only Palestine’s third goal at an Asian Cup.

On 62 minutes, they almost had a fourth. Mohammed Saleh rose unchallenged from a corner to head down a header, only for Essa to save brilliantly on the line at full stretch.

As Palestine poured forward, Dabbagh headed narrowly over, again, forced Essa to block a close-range drive, and sent his next effort skidding just beyond the far post. Evidently, it was not to be his night.

The UAE hung on for what might be a valuable point ahead of next Tuesday’s group finale, against Iran, on Tuesday. Palestine face Hong Kong, the lowest-ranked team of the 24-team tournament, at the same time.

Updated: January 18, 2024, 8:17 PM