Mahdi Ali savours ‘three important points’ as UAE stay in World Cup qualification mix

Mahdi Ali thanked his players for their efforts after Thursday's win while Thailand manager Kiatisuk Senamuang said the Emiratis 'showed they can be dark horses'.
UAE manager Mahdi Ali Hassan looks on during the World Cup qualifier against Thailand in Abu Dhabi on Thursday night. Tom Dulat / Getty Images / October 6, 2016
UAE manager Mahdi Ali Hassan looks on during the World Cup qualifier against Thailand in Abu Dhabi on Thursday night. Tom Dulat / Getty Images / October 6, 2016

ABU DHABI // Mahdi Ali praised his UAE side for coming through a tricky test against Thailand in the 2018 World Cup qualifier in Abu Dhabi on Thursday night.

The hosts were made to work for their 3-1 victory at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, where an Ali Mabkhout double and a injury-time strike from substitute Ahmed Khalil arrived either side of Tana Chanabut’s goal just after the hour.

With the win, the UAE move to six points from three matches in Group B. They next face Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia in Jeddah on Tuesday.

Mahdi Ali opened his post-match conference by thanking the UAE supporters for attending the match – the official attendance was 18,242 – then said: “I want to also thank the players for their great effort. The match was in our hands, we could have scored lots of goals in first half, then made it difficult for ourselves in the second half, but thankfully we managed to get a third. Again, I thank the players for their efforts.

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“Sometimes in the final moments, we delayed in taking shots when in strong positions, or didn’t play the ball first time when we should have. Sometimes luck is not with the attackers. Let’s not forget the attackers who missed chances scored three goals and we should take the positives from that. The most important thing is we won the match and took three important points.”

Mabkhout opened the scoring in the 14th minute, then doubled the UAE’s advantage immediately after half-time.

However, Thailand responded through substitute Tana’s 65th-minute goal and then for long spells pressed for an equaliser. The Southeast Asian champions did have a goal correctly disallowed eight minutes from time, which left Khalil to wrap up the points with virtually the last kick of the game.

Asked how his side could improve for next week’s crucial clash with Saudi, Mahdi Ali said: “I think we should not hurry about what happened today. Because during a match it is difficult. Usually there are so many emotions and you see things differently. When you look at the video one or two times you see some things you did well and did not do well. So at this moment I cannot decide. We have to go back and see the match again.”

Thailand manager Kiatisuk Senamuang was not too downbeat following the encounter, although he did say his young team have much to learn to compete regularly at this level of Asian football. He also paid his respects to the UAE, who opened their Group B campaign last month with a surprise win in Japan before losing at home to Australia.

“The UAE are a very strong team, although in the second half they had some fitness problems,” Kiatisuk said. “They are good technically and have a really good choice of substitutes, like Ahmed Khalil, who can be a game-changer.

“They still have a very good chance in this round. They had a very good result against Japan to begin the group. At first, everybody thought Japan and Australia would be the teams to go through to the World Cup, but the UAE showed they can be dark horses, together with Saudi Arabia.”

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Published: October 6, 2016 04:00 AM


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