The most meaningful long-term development in the UAE's 2-1 victory on Tuesday night is the continued rich vein of form shown by Ali Mabkhout, the Al Jazira striker.
Gulf Cup: Ali Mabkhout in red-hot form now
Majed Hassan will be the name attached to the victory over Bahrain that sent the UAE to the semi-finals of the Gulf Cup. A 20-year-old midfielder with two goals for Al Ahli in 59 matches? For him to drive the winner into the roof of the goal in the waning minutes is a great story.
But the most meaningful long-term development in the 2-1 victory is the continued rich vein of form shown by Ali Mabkhout, the Al Jazira striker.
Six months ago, even three, to mention the name "Ali Mabkhout" to a UAE fan was to elicit a grimace and a description something like: "Creates chances, never takes them."
Mahdi Ali took Mabkhout to the Olympics, but more with the hope that in the distant future he would wake up and finish a few of his many opportunities.
The light went on three months ago. How these things happen, no one knows, but Mabkhout rang up four goals in a 6-2 friendly rout of Bahrain and, soon after, he displaced the Brazilian Fernandinho in the Jazira line-up, and began piling up goals for his club, too - six in five league games to conclude the first half of the season.
He still is scoring; two in two games in the Gulf Cup. Tuesday night, he made a dash up the left side, ran on to a ball that glanced off the head of a defender, and instead of knocking it into the stands, he controlled it, pushed it past a sliding defender and banged the ball inside the near post as if he had been doing it all his life - rather than just for the past dozen games. The UAE has a red-hot forward; just not the one the country would have suspected.
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