The UAE had to come from behind to earn an injury-time victory in their friendly against Tajikistan in Dubai on Thursday night.
The national team, taking part in their second official match with manager Jorge Luis Pinto in charge, rebounded from two goals down at the Zabeel Stadium to prevail 3-2. Substitute Ali Saleh notched the winner deep into the additional time.
Earlier, an Ali Mabkhout double had dragged the UAE back into the game following a shock start for the hosts. Pinto, appointed in July, will have breathed a sigh of relief in getting his first official win with his new side.
Initially, Thursday’s encounter appeared set to go the same way. Despite the home side twice going close early through Mabkhout – the UAE’s record goalscorer really should have converted his second attempt – Tajikistan took a surprise lead on eight minutes.
Ehson Panjshanbe’s corner from the left found an unmarked Davron Ergashev at the UAE’s back post, the defender heading home past a rooted Ali Kasheif.
Tajikistan had doubled their lead 12 minutes later. The UAE's defence were caught narrow, leaving visiting right-back Iskandar Dzhalilov in too much space as he raced into the penalty area.
Dzhalilov seemed to skew his effort across goal, but Muhammadjon Rakhimov was on hand to lift the ball into the net.
However, just before the half-hour mark, the UAE halved the deficit. Al Ain winger Bandar Al Ahbabi got to the byline and lofted a cross to Mabkhout, who nodded home from right under the crossbar.
Then, as the clock crept past the hour, the UAE drew level. Substitute Mohammed Fawzi was adjudged to have been fouled in the Tajikistan area, the referee pointed to the spot, and Mabkhout rolled in the resulting penalty.
The Al Jazira striker almost had his hat-trick 20 minutes from time, when he latched onto a rebound from an Al Ahbabi shot that struck the post. Tajikistan goalkeeper Shokhrukh Kirgizboev, though, did just about enough to send the strike away for a corner.
Pinto continued to ring the changes for the remainder of the match, with his decision finally paying off in the 94th minute.
As Tajikistan looked to have held out, Saleh pounced upon Mabkhout’s miscontrolled pass to drag a shot past Kirgizboev. The UAE, currently based in Dubai, take on Bahrain on Monday in another friendly.