UAE get past Palestine in 2018 World Cup qualifying to set up ‘final mission’ against Saudi Arabia

Goals from the Al Ahli duo of Ismail Al Hammadi and Ahmed Khalil helped the UAE to a 2-0 victory. They take their tally to 16 points in Group A of the second round of Asian qualifying, reports Ahmed Rizvi.

UAE's Ahmed Khalil, left, gets a shot off against Palestine during their 2018 World Cup qualifying match on Thursday night in Abu Dhabi. Adel Al Naimi / Al Ittihad
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UAE 2 Palestine 0

UAE Al Hamadi 32', Khalil (pen) 60'

Man of the match Ahmed Khalil

ABU DHABI // Mahdi Ali, the UAE national football team coach, has urged his countrymen to come out in massive numbers and support the team in their "final mission" against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after the Whites kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup with a 2-0 win over a 10-man Palestine on Thursday night.

Goals from the Al Ahli duo of Ismail Al Hammadi and Ahmed Khalil helped the UAE take their tally to 16 points in Group A of the second round of Asian qualifying, with a match to play against group leaders Saudi Arabia at the same Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium after four days.

While they still remain second in the group behind Saudis, who beat Malaysia by an identical margin later at home, this win has improved their chances of progressing to the third and final round of AFC qualifying as one of the four best second-placed teams in the eight groups.

Photo gallery: UAE football take another step in World Cup 2018 qualifying with win over Palestine

A big win on Tuesday night could even see them progress as the group winners and that is the UAE coach’s target.

“This was a really difficult mission against Palestine and now this has opened the doors for an even tougher mission against Saudi Arabia,” Mahdi Ali said.

“The next match is the final mission for us, the ultimate mission of this round, and we will need all your support and prayers for this match.

“I want to congratulate all the fans who came to stadium tonight and supported the team through the 90 minutes, and we are really grateful to them.

“Their support lifted the team and we played a really good match, though we could have scored more if we had shown a bit more focus.

“It was an exciting match and Palestine kept fighting until the end, but I don’t think the match deserved as many bookings as we saw.”

The Palestinians received six yellow cards, including two for Mohammed Darwish, who was sent off in the 68th minute. Three Emirati players were booked on the night and all three – goalscorer Al Hammadi, Majed Hassan and Habib Fardan – will miss the crucial final group clash against the Saudis.

“There were too many yellow cards and now we will miss these three players for the next match,” Mahdi Ali said.

“However, tomorrow morning we just have to forget about this match and focus on preparing for the game against Saudi Arabia.”

The UAE, of course, will have to show a much greater endeavour against the Saudis then they showed against Palestine last night, for they will be up against a team who made four consecutive appearances at the World Cup between 1994 and 2006. The UAE did not really look really fluent against Palestine last night.

Abdalnasser Barakat, the Palestine coach, claimed the hosts were fortunate to receive a penalty in the 59th minute when Abdallah Jaber failed to get his hands out of the path of a Mohammed Fawzi cross.

Khalil, who had played provider for Al Hammadi’s opening goal in the 32nd minute, converted from the spot to make it 2-0 on the hour mark.

“We played the last 30 minutes with 10 men and we did not receive a goal during that period,” Barakat said.

“Their second goals came off a penalty, that in my opinion, was a bit harsh.

“So I don’t think we played all that bad. The UAE are a very good team and they played a fantastic match.”

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