UAE World Cup 2022 qualification hopes suffer another blow following Vietnam loss

Bert van Marwijk's side now third in Group G after 1-0 defeat at My Dinh National Stadium

UAE lost their World Cup 2022 qualifier againstr Vietnam in Hanoi. UAE FA
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Seven minutes was all it took. In control and apparently in position to build upon a strong first half in Vietnam, the UAE’s World Cup qualification hopes suffered a significant dent. The contest in Hanoi lurched in what felt a blink of an eye.

First, Khalifa Al Hammadi was sent off eight minutes before half-time, awarded a straight red at My Dinh National Stadium for tussling with Nguyen Tien Linh as the Vietnam striker raced onto a pass and through on goal. It seemed not to matter that Mohammed Al Menhali was in close proximity, the right-back tucked in, able to cover.

Still seething with the sense of injustice, the UAE then fell behind. Tien Linh was the thorn in their side once more, collecting the ball about 30 yards out and sending a long-range drive dipping and swerving past Khalid Essa in the visiting goal.

Vietnam, one spot and one point above the UAE in Group G, had their opener. Their opponents, keen to rebound from last month’s defeat to Thailand, had suddenly a mountain to climb. They never managed to scale it. They lost 1-0.

Coming into the match, the UAE had known the size of the task that awaited them. Vietnam could no longer be considered continental pushovers, champions of the 2018 AFF Cup and quarter-finalists weeks later at the 2019 Asian Cup. They were unbeaten in qualification, too, beginning their campaign with two victories and a draw.

That the UAE were missing Ali Mabkhout only piqued their plight. The country's all-time leading scorer had accrued yellow cards almost as swiftly as he had goals during the first three qualifiers, leaving him unavailable for selection. Thus, he was unable to add to his six strikes thus far.

In Mabkhout’s absence, Ahmed Khalil was given the nod up front in Hanoi, yet bar a wild attempted overhead kick and scuffed shot from range, he offered little. The 2015 Asian player of the year was withdrawn 11 minutes into the second half.

Khalil was one of six changes from the 2-1 reverse in Thailand four weeks previously, a result that halted the UAE’s 100 per cent start to the group and handed manager Bert van Marwijk a first defeat.

Against Vietnam, the Dutchman gave 21-year-old midfielder Abdullah Ramadan a first start and veteran left-back Yousef Jaber a first competitive cap in more than seven years. Bandar Al Ahbabi, meanwhile, was rewarded for fine domestic form with a place on the right wing.

It was the Al Ain wing-back who led the 10-man fight-back in the second half, however futile it ultimately was. Twice, Al Ahbabi bounded to the Vietnam byline and, while both his crosses caused havoc, they were hacked clear by the hosts.

To the UAE’s dismay, that was as good as it got. A second successive loss hurt, despite the gutsy second-half display, irrespective of Thailand's defeat earlier in the day to Malaysia.

At the halfway stage, the UAE stay third in Group G, four points off leaders Vietnam, one back from Thailand. They can derive some solace that three of their remaining four fixtures, beginning next March, take place at home.

But they need to bounce back at the next possible point. With a second loss now in the books, progression to the third and final round of qualification depends on it.