Goals are the missing equation in Olympic hopes of Ali's men

Mahdi Ali, the UAE Olympic team coach, said his players had only themselves to blame after they failed to score in last night's draw with Uzbekistan.

Temurkhuja Abdukholiqov, left, hit the turf, but he and his Uzbekistan teammates didn't fall to Mohamed Fawzi and the UAE on Wednesday night.
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Al Ain // Mahdi Ali, the UAE Olympic football team coach, said his players had only themselves to blame after they failed to score in Wednesday night's draw with Uzbekistan.

The main culprit in the London 2012 qualifier was the Al Jazira striker Ali Mabkhout, who missed an excellent chance in both halves of a game the home side dominated.

Ali's team have recorded two scoreless draws in their opening Group B matches, and the coach was left to rue an evening where his players did so much right but failed to take three points.

"We had much better chances to score, but we didn't take advantage of them," he said. "We perhaps lacked concentration in front of goal.

"Sometimes this can happen. We did not play to our maximum level and that is why he did not score and, if you don't score, then you don't win games. That is a basic equation."

Vadim Abramov, the Uzbek coach, believes that all four teams in Group B can finish first and win a ticket to London.

Uzbekistan have four points, the UAE and Australia are on two and Iraq on one.

"We came to the Emirates to win and I thought they played quite well, so a draw is not a bad result for us," Abramov said.

"It was a tough game but we knew that it was going to be just that. The UAE are a good team and, I would say, all four countries have a chance in our group of getting to the next stage."

Ali stressed that he was not criticising his players, who face Iraq in Al Ain on Sunday. He praised their effort and commitment and feels that they are almost where he wants them to be.

"We are playing at 80 per cent right now, when we need to be at least at 90 per cent," said Ali.

His team have not scored in 236 minutes, going back to Hamdan Al Kamali's penalty against North Korea, and their struggles in the attack are beginning to mirror those of the senior side.

"I honestly don't think the lack of goals is a big problem, and maybe all we are missing is a little bit of luck," Ali said. "It's a small issue and we will try to fix it by the time of the next match.

"The front players showed good movement and got themselves into dangerous positions. All they needed was that final touch. This was a tough match against a good team and, I must say, there is not a lot between the four teams, and it's too early to guess how the group will work out."

Ali's men enjoyed by far the majority of the possession, but the defensive approach of the Uzbeks ensured their backline was not breached.

Ahmed Khalil, the UAE striker, had two long-range efforts early on, neither of which threatened the goal.

Four minutes before the break, the home side passed up a fantastic opportunity. An excellent pass from Amer Abdulrahman in midfield gave Mabkhout the chance for a run-on goal. He turned inside marker Ismatullaev Akbarjon, but chose not to shoot first time and that hesitation cost him. The eventual effort was weak and allowed goalkeeper Kuvvatov Sanjar to make a save.

Uzbekistan's best and only sight of goal came on 69 minutes, when the UAE defence did not deal with a low ball sent across the six-yard box, and Musaev Fozil almost tapped in.

With 15 minutes remaining, Mabkhout missed an even better opportunity. He was picked out inside the box by Khalil's superb dinked pass, took a touch but, with the goal at his mercy, dragged his shot wide.

The lively Khalil saw a free kick near the end punched away by Sanjar, as the country's woes in front of goal remained all too apparent.