Ali Mabkhout hat-trick powers UAE to win over Indonesia in World Cup qualifier

Bert van Marwijk's side ease to 5-0 win at Al Maktoum Stadium

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 10, 2019: UAE's Ali Mabkhout scores his hatrick during the Qatar 2022 world cup qualifier between The UAE and Indonesia. Thursday 10th of October. Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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So far, so good for Bert van Marwijk and the UAE.

The national team’s newest era has gotten off to the healthiest of starts, Thursday’s 5-0 victory against Indonesia in Dubai making it two victories from two World Cup qualifiers.

Khalil Ibrahim struck a rather fortuitous opener on 41 minutes at Al Maktoum Stadium, Tariq Ahmed tapped in late, while in between Ali Mabkhout chipped in with a second-half hat-trick.

The scorers boasted wildly contrasting CVs: it was Ibrahim’s debut goal for the UAE; Ahmed’s too. Mabkhout’s international tally now reads 54. In the process, he usurped Adnan Al Talyani as the country's all-time leading marksman.

Van Marwijk’s reign was off and running. Appointed in March, and with a remit to reinvigorate the squad, the win provided the Dutchman validation. For the opener, Ali Saleh’s curled cross caused confusion, debutant Wawan Hendrawan erred in the Indonesia goal, and Ibrahim poked home at the second attempt. The combining UAE pair were each enjoying only a second competitive appearance for their country.

That it arrived close to the conclusion of the first half provided the UAE a perfect fillip on a humid night in the emirate. Long before, only two minutes in, Walid Abbas somehow failed to direct Ahmed Barman’s corner past Hendrawan. All of three yards out, the captain really should have done better.

Sandwiched inside those two moments, there was not much for the hosts to crow about. They controlled possession, as was anticipated against a side ranked 101 spots below them by Fifa, but found clear opportunities hard to come by.

Jassim Yaqoub, another of the fresh blood, fired wide from the edge of the penalty area, while Mabkhout’s improvised effort sailed beyond the Indonesia goal.

The UAE could have had two penalties either side of the opener, though. First, Ricky Fajrin appeared to trip advancing right-back Mohammed Al Menhali, but the referee waved away protests. He did so again, right on half-time, even though Hanif Sjahbandi had a fistful of Khalifa Al Hammadi’s shirt when contesting a UAE corner.

It soon mattered little. Not long into the second half, the UAE doubled their lead. Indonesia midfielder Zulfiandi miscontrolled, Mabkhout exchanged passes with Ibrahim and then floated his finish just beyond the backtracking Gavin Kwan on the goalline.

It made it three goals to begin qualification for Mabkhout; the Al Jazira frontman scored both last month in the 2-1, come-from-behind victory against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

He quickly climbed to four. Just after the hour, Mabkhout thundered a shot against the crossbar, but Saleh’s shot from the ensuing scramble cannoned off Hansamu Yama’s outstretched arm. Mabkhout casually rolled home the penalty.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 10, 2019: Ali Mabkhout of the UAE and Hansamu Yama Pranata of Indonesia during the Qatar 2022 world cup qualifier between The UAE and Indonesia. Thursday 10th of October. Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Ali Mabkhout became the UAE's top scorer. Chris Whiteoak / The National

By then, Omar Abdulrahman had been introduced, much to the delight of the UAE support. The 2016 Asian player of the year, sidelined for much of the past year through injury, will be better for the 30-plus minutes.

At the other end, Khalid Essa had next to nothing to do, but for one spritely moment when he leapt to his right to tip over Stefano Lilpaly’s free-kick. Indonesia looked like a side who had lost their first Group G two matches.

On 72 minutes, their struggles deepened. Mabkhout latched onto Saleh’s through-ball, rounded Hendrawan and stroked in from the angle. It was a premier predator’s goal, another example of his importance to the national team. It ended Al Talyani's 22-year record.

Then, right at the death, substitute Tariq Ahmed pounced on a rebound to round off the night.

For sure, there will be tougher tests to come. Thailand are next up, on Tuesday on the outskirts of Bangkok, a fast-improving outfit who know the Emiratis well.

But, for a squad still growing familiar with Van Marwijk, the UAE go there in fine spirits. Six points from a possible six is exactly the start they required.