UAE 3 Kuwait 0
DUBAI // Mahdi Ali has called on the UAE clubs for greater support after starting his tenure as national team coach with just 14 players for his first training camp.
Several Pro League clubs, who are training overseas for the start of the season, were reluctant to release their players for Mahdi Ali's camp.
Still, the team managed to turn in an impressive display in Japan on Thursday in a 1-0 defeat and last night they drubbed familiar rivals Kuwait 3-0 with Saeed Al Kathiri, Habib Al Fardan and Walid Abbas scoring the goals.
"We had only 14 players in training and I think this is not acceptable for a national team, to have only such few players," Mahdi Ali said last night. "I am very happy nobody got injured, especially since in the first game I didn't have any defender [on the bench].
"Most of the clubs have been cooperative, but a few of the clubs delayed the release of players."
Given their lack of preparation, the travel through different time zones and the oppressive humidity last night, Mahdi Ali was impressed with the efforts his players have put in over the last 10 days.
"They travelled from Europe to Japan, which is an eight hour time difference," he said. "The body clock needs time to adapt. So I am very happy with their efforts and would like to thank them.
"The climatic conditions were really difficult for both teams today, but thanks God, there were no injuries.
"In the circumstances, the players have shown they have good quality and that they can handle pressure and play under abnormal conditions.
"It is not easy for any team to travel and to play. We faced some difficulty with the players sleeping time. They would stay awake in the night and sleep during the day. It was not easy."
The UAE's impressive performance in Japan failed to tempt the home fans to leave the comfort of their air-conditioned dwellings and make the trip to the Al Ahli stadium. Just two nights ago, the same venue was almost packed to capacity with Al Shaab and Sharjah fans for their Pro League play-off match.
It must have been a huge disappointment for the UAE team, who played in front of more than 42,000 fans in Japan.
There was just no atmosphere in the stadium and it probably affected the home players as Kuwait held sway for the early parts of the game.
With Ahmed Khalil injured on the eve of the game, Mahdi Ali started with Ali Mabkhout and Saeed Al Kathiri in attack. The duo seemed far from settled in the early minutes of the game and Mabkhout was guilty of wasting a simple chance in the 31st minute.
A UAE counterattack had found the Al Jazira man in the clear and as he raced into the box, he tried to chip over the Kuwait goalkeeper Khaled Al Rashidy from close range. His effort, however, was too high and bounced off the crossbar.
Mabkhout, however, made amends five minutes later, feeding Al Kathiri with the cross, which the Al Wahda striker headed home.
Al Kathiri almost doubled the score in injury time of the first half with a sizzling volley from the edge of the box. Mabkhout was the provider yet again, but this time Al Rashidy was able to save the shot.
The UAE eventually got their second goal in the 72nd minute when Al Fardan pounced on a rebound off the Kuwait goalkeeper to blast home.
Abbas made it 3-0 in the 85th minute after Ismail Al Hammadi sprinted through the Kuwait defence and pulled the ball back for the Al Shabab defender to score.
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