Ali Mabkhout at the double as UAE recover from early shock to beat Malaysia in their opening World Cup 2022 qualifier

Al Jazira striker leads the charge as new manager Bert van Marwijk tastes victory in his first competitive match in charge

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The UAE opened their 2022 World Cup qualification campaign with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Bert van Marwijk’s first competitive match in charge had gotten off to the worst possible start at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, with his side conceding in the first minute to Syafiq Ahmad’s header.

However, Ali Mabkhout scored in each half to give a youthful UAE side an important three points to kick-start Group G. Malaysia began their campaign last Thursday with a 3-2 victory secured in injury-time against Indonesia in Jakarta.

The UAE, boasting five players aged 23 and under in their starting line-up, suffered an disastrous early set-back, going a goal down inside the first minute when right-back Matthew Davies’ whipped cross was met by Ahmad at the visitors' back post, who powered his header past Khalid Essa.

The UAE looked understandably rattled, and were lucky to survive a succession of wasted chances from the hosts, chiefly through Ahmad and Safawi Rasid. At the other end, Mabkhout flashed wide when through on goal.

Just before the half hour, Mabkhout was provided another sight of goal via Khalid Ibrahim’s pinpoint cross but, with only goalkeeper Farizal Marlias to beat, the Al Jazira striker prodded a tame effort off the Malaysia captain’s outstretched foot.

Minutes later, home defender Brendan Gan should have been sent off for a head-butt on Mabkhout, but he was only cautioned.

Mabkhout, who was promptly booked too, would end the first half with the last laugh, the forward rising highest to Mohammed Al Menhali’s looped cross on 43 minutes to head past Marlias.

The UAE improved greatly in the second half and could have then seized the lead moments after the break, although debutant Ali Saleh dragged wide his shot when well placed to score.

Van Marwijk, who was appointed in March, introduced Omar Abdulrahman on 73 minutes, giving the 2016 Asian player of the year his first competitive outing in 10 months. Minutes later, the UAE were in front, with Mabkhout racing onto a long ball and away from the Malaysia defence to toe-poke under Marlias.

Malaysia, ranked 100 places below the UAE, thought they had equalised soon after, only for Safawi’s fierce shot to thud the post from a tight angle on the left. Van Marwijk's men just about held on, earning a morale-boosting opening win.

The UAE next play Indonesia on October 10 in Dubai before taking on Thailand in Bangkok five days later. Vietnam make up Group G.