The United Arab Emirates secured third place in the Asian Cup defeating Iraq 3-2 on Friday night in a spirited encounter at Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium.
The match had a little bit of everything including a red card, some sublime passing from UAE star Omar Abdulrahman and a likely Golden Boot-securing penalty from Ali Mabkhout but the difference was the brace from fellow UAE striker Ahmed Khalil who scored goals either side of halftime.
It was all the UAE and Khalil who dominated early in front of 12,829 fans and he had a great chance inside the first 10 minutes but couldn’t put the header on target.
He made up for that in the 16th minute when Mabkhout stole possession at halfway and slipped a ball to Abdulrahman who took it in his stride before slipping a perfectly weighted pass to Khalil who duly beat the onrushing Mohammed Hameed in the Iraq goal.
Just three minutes later, Iraq nearly had the equaliser when Younus Mahmood’s deflected shot hit the crossbar before his follow-up chip was tipped over by Khalid Eisa in the UAE goal.
The game had turned and Iraq dominated the rest of the first half, scoring first through Waleed Salim, who blasted straight through Eisa to level the scores on 28 minutes, before UAE were made to pay for a silly challenge by Abdulrahman just before the break.
Iraq moved the ball quickly from the free-kick and, when Eisa spilled a long-range shot from Mahdi Kamil Shiltagh, Amjed Kalaf Al-Muntafik was there to tap in and give Iraq a 2-1 lead at halftime.
Iraq started the second half as they finished the first and threatened the UAE goal – until, against the run of play, Khalil scored his second.
The UAE striker sprung the Iraq offside trap by turning his defender and latching onto the ball from Abdulrahman before rounding Hameed to level at 2-2.
That was the beginning of the end for the Lions of Mesopotamia and, when Mabkhout was played into the box – one-on-one with Hameed – he was bundled over from behind by Ahmed Ibrahim.
Bahrainian referee Nawaf Shukralla was left no choice but to award the penalty and show the defender the red card.
Mabkhout duly converted as Hameed, who was lucky to get through the penalty shootout win over Iran without having to make a save, again showed he was clueless on penalties, moving extremely early and allowing Mabkhout the easy finish as he struck the ball to the keeper’s exposed right side to seal the result.