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North Korea's An Yong-hak, left, struggles to take the ball from the UAE's Ismail Matar during last night's match. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
North Korea's An Yong-hak, left, struggles to take the ball from the UAE's Ismail Matar during last night's match. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
North Korea's midfielder Ryang Yong-Gi (R) challenges UAE's midfielder Ismail al-Hammadi during the 2011 Asian Cup group D football match between North Korea and UAE at Qatar Sports Club Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha on January 11, 2011. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL *** Local Caption *** 027528-01-08.jpg
North Korea's midfielder Ryang Yong-Gi (R) challenges UAE's midfielder Ismail al-Hammadi during the 2011 Asian Cup group D football match between North Korea and UAE at Qatar Sports Club Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha on January 11, 2011. AFP PHOTO / PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL
 *** Local Caption *** 027528-01-08.jpg

UAE impress at Asian Cup but still lack goals

Srecko Katanec's fears that his side would be under-prepared and weighed down by unrealistic expectations proved to be unfounded

UAE 0 // North Korea 0

Man of the match Ismail Matar (UAE)

DOHA // Srecko Katanec's fears that his side would be under-prepared and weighed down by unrealistic expectations proved to be unfounded last night as the UAE opened their Asian Cup campaign with a commanding performance against World Cup finalists North Korea.

They survived the prospect of falling behind to a penalty to dominate the game and their spirited and sprightly display against opponents who ran Brazil close in the summer and warranted all three points.

Katanec's only concern would have been his team's failure to convert a plethora of chances and he needs to address their conversion rate before games against Iraq and Iran.

Looking sharper in all areas of the field than their opponents and showing better organisation, the UAE survived a seventh-minute penalty scare when Hong Yong-jo missed from 12 yards.

They completely dominated the game thereafter, with Ismail Matar to the fore.

The vocal travelling fans from the UAE were out of their seats in the 18th minute when Ahmed Khalil and Matar forced their way into the box. A melee ensued and it needed a smart save from Ri Myong-guk, the goalkeeper, to keep out Ismail al Hammadi's shot.

The North Korea No 1 was back in the thick of action in the 23rd minute, lunging to his left to repel a Matar shot.

Ri, however, was left stranded by al Kamali's deft header in the 26th minute, but unfortunately for the UAE, the effort skimmed over the bar.

The same thing happened in the 31st minute with Matar's airborne side-volley missing the target by the narrowest of margins.

The story of missed chances continued into the final seconds of the first period, when Yousuf Jaber's volley cannoned just over the bar.

North Korea remained on the back foot in the second period but still the UAE could not make the breakthrough.

They almost achieved it in he 90th minute but Ri came to North Korea's rescue again when he kept out Saeed al Kathiri's header.

 

arizvi@thenational.ae

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