Radamel Falcao puts aside Manchester United woes to equal Colombia scoring record in Abu Dhabi

Penalty awarded, Falcao placed his spot-kick high into the Kuwaiti goal off the underside of the crossbar. Arms aloft, he took off towards the smattering of Colombia fans at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, writes John McAuley.

Colombia’s Radamel Falcao, centre, cuts across the Kuwait defence at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Monday night. Christopher Pike / The National
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Colombia 3 Kuwait 1

Colombia Aguilar 22', Cardona 68', Falcao (pen) 74'

Kuwait Neda 45'

Man of the match Abel Aguilar (Colombia)

ABU DHABI // Captain for the night, Radamel Falcao led his Colombian team out onto the pitch at the Zayed Sports City and elicited a frenzied reaction from the small section that housed his compatriots.

The Manchester United striker may be entangled in a torrid relationship with his club, but for country he is evidently still the main man.

A friendly with Kuwait was welcome indeed, since it offered the opportunity to break from Premier League woes, to banish a hitherto hugely unsuccessful loan spell with England’s most successful side.

It also gave the chance to build on a double against Bahrain last Thursday.

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Kuwait, who crashed out of the most recent Gulf Cup at the group stage, are ranked 125th in the world by Fifa. Colombia, quarter-finalists at the last World Cup, sit third. A chance beckoned for Falcao to fill his boots.

The only thing was, he did little to suggest a return to form is imminent. That initial cheer arrived when he emerged from the tunnel for the pre-match warm-up. Thereafter, the shrieks and shouts were largely more in vain than vindication. It was not through any lack of effort.

Involved for the entire encounter, Falcao clapped and cajoled his colleagues throughout, ran in behind the Kuwaiti defence, or dropped short to show for the ball. At one point in the first half, he exchanged a neat one-two with Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea’s winter signing. He curled a shot high and wide. He even had a crack at a Robin van Persie-esque flying header.

The estimated £25 million (Dh136m) move from Monaco might not have paid off yet, but at least he has been paying attention in training.

Much like his time at United, though, Falcao failed to ­connect. Thanks heavens, then, that the referee provided a helping hand. A rather large one, too. Having nudged the ball just out of reach of his marker in the 71st minute, Falcao was felled, although the infringement occurred just outside the area.

Penalty awarded, he placed his spot-kick high into the Kuwaiti goal off the underside of the crossbar. Arms aloft, he took off towards the smattering of Colombia fans. It was his 24th goal for his country — equalling a record held for 24 years by Arnoldo Iguaran. Colombia were 3-1 up.

Goals from Abel Aguilar and substitute Edwin Cardona had earlier sandwiched a surprise equaliser from Musaed Neda, the Kuwaiti captain. It was to be his Colombian counterpart, though, who would have the final say.

Whether this international break provides the platform for Falcao to rescue his United spell remains to be seen. Four goals in 22 matches for the Old Trafford club is scant return on significant investment. Yet it must be remembered that, at 29, he has already surrendered a large chunk of playing time to injury.

At times that looked to be the case: he was laboured and lacking in confidence. He has some way to go before recapturing the class that once lifted him among the planet’s deadliest marksmen. For now, Falcao is far from the target.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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