The UAE’s hopes of Asian Cup glory were ended on Tuesday night with a 4-0 defeat by Qatar in the semi-final in Abu Dhabi.
The hosts, seeking to contest a second showpiece on home soil, were outdone at a near-capacity Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium by goals from Boualem Khoukhi, Almoez Ali, Hasan Al Haydos and Hamid Ismail. Qatar now take on Japan in Friday’s final in the capital.
Felix Sanchez’s side took the lead on 22 minutes, when Khoukhi led a counter-attack along his team's right flank. Seeing no other option but to shoot from the edge of the penalty area, his shot squirmed under UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa.
Eight minutes before half-time, Qatar doubled their advantage. Ali collected a pass from Akram Afif before curling his effort around Essa and into the UAE goal via the post. It was Ali’s eighth goal this tournament.
Attempting to get back into the encounter, UAE manager Alberto Zaccheroni introduced veteran forward Ismail Matar at the beginning of the second-half, and 2015 Asian Player of Year Ahmed Khalil shortly afterwards.
On 53 minutes, Ali Mabkhout’s deflected shot from distance was tipped over the Qatar crossbar by goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb. Then, 19 minutes from time, Bandar Al Ahbabi’s cross found Khalil at the opposition back post, but the striker’s header was deflected over once more by Al Sheeb.
To their credit, the UAE pushed for a way back into the game. However, on 80 minutes, Al Haydos latched onto Afif’s flick as defender Ismail Ahmed played for offside. The Qatar captain lifted the ball over the onrushing Essa to put his side 3-0 up and into the first Asian Cup final in the country’s history.
The UAE, runners-up the only other time the tournament was staged in the Emirates, in 1996, concluded the match with 10 men after Ahmed was sent off for an elbow on Salem Al Hajri. Ismail rounded off the victory deep into injury-time.