The UAE Olympic team presented the nation a wonderful Eid gift by reaching the Asian Games quarter-finals for the first time in six attempts after a 2-0 victory over Kuwait in Guangzhou, China, last night.
Their task was made easier when Mashary al Azemi was sent off in the 52nd minute for two yellow cards, the first for a foul and the other for diving. Kuwait ended the game with nine players with Abdulhadi Khamis also given his marching orders a minute into added time, also for two bookings.
The UAE capitalised on the numerical advantage and scored twice through Hamdan al Kamali from a penalty kick and Abdulla Mousa, who fired home a stunning shot from a difficult angle, to seal the game.
It could have been more had Ahmed Khalil been successful with a penalty in added time.
They now face North Korea, who overcame Vietnam 2-0, in the quarter-finals on Friday. Japan thrashed India 5-0 and will meet Thailand, who beat Turkmenistan 1-0 in extra time after the match remained scoreless after 90 minutes.
Reduced to 10 players, Kuwait nearly went ahead. Abdulla al Harbi had a golden opportunity approaching the hour, but he blew the chance by firing way over the crossbar from inside the area when one-on-one with Ali Kasheif, the goalkeeper.
Instead, the UAE took the lead. Abdulla Ahmad, the Kuwait captain, pulled Khalil down, and al Kamali stepped up to score from the spot.
Khalil could have taken them to safety twice in the last 10 minutes, his two efforts from inside the area were blocked by Abdulaziz Fatehi, the Kuwait goalkeeper, before Mousa struck two minutes from time.