DOHA // Mahdi Ali, the coach of the Under 23 and Olympic team, last night dedicated his team's Gulf Cup triumph to the President and people of the country. The UAE defeated Kuwait 1-0 in the final, with Ahmed Khalil striking the winner in the 33rd minute. The victory sparked celebrations in the dugout that continued well into the night, with the officials of the Football Association joining in.
"I would like to congratulate all the players and dedicate this small title to our President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, our Vice-President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed," said Ali, who had also won the Asia U19 Championship with the same side two years. "I would like to gift this title to all the people of our country - it is just a small gift from us.
"We have worked really hard through the years and I am really happy that after all the hard work, they have the title. I think this team is really good and in the coming two or three years, we will have a really strong national team." The UAE made an impressive start to the game and dominated the first half, but Kuwait upped the ante after the break and asked some stiff questions of the UAE. The two teams had drawn 1-1 in the group stages and while the UAE failed to make the game safe, a repeat of that scoreline was always on the cards.
Maher al Shammari, the Kuwait coach, was disappointed to miss out on the title, but pleased with the effort of his team. "My players played their heart out," he said. "So I cannot really complain. It is always difficult to come back from a goal down, but we tried our best till the end. We also had to be careful not to concede a second. "This UAE team is really good, they have the experience of big matches and they put it to use."