ABU DHABI // The UAE Under 23 team turned in a stunning performance last night when they thrashed Sri Lanka 7-1 to take a big step towards qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.
The rout at the Baniyas Stadium was the first leg of the preliminary round qualifier for the London Games and Mahdi Ali, the coach, wants more of the same when the teams play again at the weekend.
"Our plans will be the same as we played in the first game," said Ali.
The teams meet in the second leg on Friday at the same venue.
"It was a good start for our Olympic Games campaign. We scored seven goals and created several chances.
"We conceded a goal which we will have to address before the next game. In football, mistakes are bound to happen but the mistakes were at a minimum in this game.
"We played to our strength and also it is important to keep the focus of the players when playing against such teams, and I am happy the players were focused in this game."
Looking ahead to Friday's game Ali said: "We may make a few changes but that would be minimal. The idea is to provide match practice and to achieve that we need to play the best combination."
Jang Jung, the South Korean coach of Sri Lanka, said: "It would have been remarkable to win against the UAE. We were trying to keep the margin of victory to a minimum and we will play the same strategy for the next game."
Ahmed Khalil opened the floodgates by tapping in a pass from Omar Abdulrahman to give his side a third-minute lead.
The Al Ahli striker was on target again for the first goal in the second half, a powerful left-footer off a cross from Abdulaziz Hussain.
Rashed Eisa, returning from a knee injury he suffered at the Asian Games last November, was on target twice in seven minutes in the first quarter of the match, heading home a cross from Abdulrahman and then scoring with a looping shot from outside the box to make it 3-0.
Hamdan al Kamali made it 4-0 seven minutes before the break from the penalty spot after Khalil was felled by Mohamed Ramlan.
The Sri Lankans scored a consolation goal after Khalil's second strike when Philip Rashen, the captain, headed home a corner from Ramlan on the hour.
But the UAE hit back twice through Ahmed Ali in the 63rd minute and Ali Mabkhout, the substitute, in the 66th.
Sri Lanka could have opened the scoring when Rashen was one-on-one with Adel al Hosani, the UAE goalkeeper.
Mohamed Shafraz broke away from the middle of the field and sent a cross to Reshan, but his effort went wide.