The UAE's preparation for the Gulf Cup suffered a setback on Wednesday when Tajikistan pulled out of their friendly match scheduled for Saturday.
The UAE were to meet the Tajiks at Doha in their second and final friendly match ahead of the Gulf Cup that starts in Bahrain on January 5. The Central Asians have now made themselves unavailable for the game and the Whites will be taking on Yemen instead.
Mahdi Ali will certainly be disappointed with the latest developments.
Before leaving for the camp at Doha on December 21, he had expressed his displeasure with the lack of time he was getting to prepare the team. Originally, the squad was to assemble five days earlier and play three friendly matches during their camp.
The UAE coach will, however, be pleased with the performance of his players in a 2-0 victory over Yemen on Tuesday night.
Amer Abdulrahman broke the deadlock in the 61st minute.
Omar Abdulrahman added the second in the 82nd, two minutes after missing a penalty.
Amer's return to the international fold is certainly good news for the UAE going into the Gulf Cup.
The diminutive Baniyas playmaker has been struggling with injuries this season and has missed five Pro League matches in the first half of the season.
The last time he featured in the Baniyas starting XI was against Al Wahda in Week 6 of the Pro League, on November 2, after which he was forced to miss four Pro League matches and an Etisalat Cup game due to injury.
Since his return, he has started three league matches on the bench, getting around 15 minutes towards the end of the games.
According to reports from Doha, Amer has not taken long to get into form and was his usual commanding self against Yemen.
The UAE fans will be pleased to hear that, for he and Omar make a formidable duo in the midfield, bringing class, high technical skill and a creative spark to the team, as was evident in the 6-2 romp over Bahrain in October.
The other good news for UAE was the participation of Ismail Matar in the second half of the match against Yemen.
Matar has been struggling with a chronic ankle injury and his appearance in the Gulf Cup was in doubt after he left Al Wahda's President's Cup match against Al Shaab in the second half with some deep bruises.
The only worry for Mahdi Ali would be Ahmed Khalil's continuing goal drought, as he failed to create any worthwhile chances.
Khalil probably needs a bit more time to get rid of the rust and Saturday's match against the same opponents will be another good opportunity for him.
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