Great coaches rarely make decisions that are negated so quickly and end up blowing up in their face. And that is what Mahdi Ali did as he brought in veteran Ismael Mattar in the beginning of the second half. He played the team’s motivational trump card.
A fact, which can be thrown at the critic’s, is that the team can cope without the services of their star player Omar Abdul Rahman who was nursing an injury. At least for today’s game against Uzbekistan. However, Omar could be seen cheering for the team decked out in his Los Angeles Lakers gear.
After the Uzbeks took the lead at the Mohamed Bin Zayed stadium due to what we all have been accustomed to, a textbook defensive error all seemed like it was lost. The Emirati’s could barely put more than 5 passes together, going forward. However, there were a few moments brilliance; one being a tiki-taka’ish one-two combination between Sanqoor and Mabkhout which almost delivered. Almost.
The rest of the entire first half was just bland for most of it. And the fact that the VIP tickets we had were nowhere close to what one would have expected them to be did not make things easier. The only entertaining feature from the Emiratis should be credited to the person who was consistently garnering the support of the crowd.
As the players walked on to the pitch for the second time, the anticipated entry of the short bald headed man adorning a captain’s arm band and the number 10 jersey was observed. His very presence, his Tevez-esque approach to chasing defenders from one end to the other, as they moved the ball around was what the team needed. It drew roars of applause from the 20K+ crowd that was present, which in turn affected the game play. Two sublime visionary filled long balls from the other Abdul Rahman – Amer, made the difference. At the receiving end it was the lackluster Khalil who converted a well-weighted ball from Amer into the back of the net. For some reason, UAE can afford to have him missing for 85 minutes of a game, because he just needs a moment and that may come in the 90th minute. The second came from Mabkhout who is enjoying a steady scoring record at the international level.
From an amusement perspective, the second half came to an end with Ali Kashief making a few successive saves in an acrobatic manner. After shot blocking a few attempts, one would obviously get tired. And then, Kashief being Kashief, lay down on the pitch in one of his ridiculous attempts to waste time. The only negative aspect about the keeper – his techniques of wasting time.
This win still entertains the unconstructive thought of existing and more frequent lapses in the defensive end for the Emiratis. Although tonight, Mahdi Ali will be basking in the manner he managed to alter the end result of the game, he will be trying to figure out the wrong with the 4 men in the back in his ever changing 4-4-2 formation.