DEHRADUN, INDIA // The UAE will return home from India with their second IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia in four years after they beat Thailand 3-0 last night with their goalkeeper Khaled Al Suwaidi recording a fourth successive shutout.
The keeper picked up the Player of the Tournament award as he proved impregnable as the national side swept to victory with goals from Mohamed Al Zaabi, Ebraheem Budebs and Obaid Al Muharrami.
Yuri Faikov, the head coach, picked out Al Suwaidi for particular praise after the keeper went through the entire competition without conceding a goal.
The coach said: "If I needed to point out a single strength of our team, it would have to be our goalkeeper. Al Suwaidi did a tremendous job by backing up our team and placing the holes our defence sometimes made. It makes our job much easier when we have someone like him to rely on."
Al Suwaidi felt he was a worthy winner of the MVP award and said the team had promised each other after their 15-0 demolition of Malaysia in their semi-final match on Saturday that they would go on to claim the top prize.
"I feel I earned this prize," he said. "I feel really happy and relieved. I must be the happiest person on Earth, and I just finished a call with my mother who is happy for us as well, and we can share this joy with the people who are close to us.
"I think the team held together very good. Yesterday, after the semi-finals, each one of us made a loud commitment towards each other, that today in the final we would give our best, everything we got.
"I think we kept our promise and that is how we managed to win. We came here to get the cup back and nothing else mattered, that was the only outcome we would be satisfied with."
The game was closer than the scoreline suggest, with plenty of goal-scoring opportunities for both sides.
"We came here to win, we could settle for nothing less," said Faikov, the Belarusian, who is in his second stint in charge of the national team having previously been head coach from 2001 to 2008.
"This is our goal in each and every competition, tournament we go to.
"There is no such thing as second place, or going for a good result. Gold and first place is all that count."
It is the second time the UAE have won the event having finished runners-up for the past two tournaments.
The Emirates team marched through the group and knockout stages of the tournament without losing a game.
In total they scored 42 goals and conceded just three. They also had 201 shots on goal during the tournament.
When Faikov returned to the national side he said that one of the first things he did was improve the players' strength and endurance.
Both qualities these were in evidence last night.
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