x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

African adventure starts well for the UAE

The UAE's Under 17 side overcame a nervous first half to beat Malawi 2-0 and get off to a superb start to their Under 17 World Cup campaign in Kano, Nigeria, last night.

The UAE's Under 17 side overcame a nervous first half to beat Malawi 2-0 and get off to a superb start to their Under 17 World Cup campaign in Kano, Nigeria, last night. The youngsters, whose only other U17 World Cup appearance came 18 years ago, survived a few scares before goals from Marwan al Saffar and Mohammad Sebil sealed their victory. Malawi, who qualified for the tournament through the backdoor following Niger's expulsion from the African continental championship for fielding over-age players, dominated the opening session and created plenty of opportunities, but luck was on the UAE side. They had an escape in the fifth minute when the Africans were denied by the woodwork. Nine minutes later, their goalkeeper, Ahmad Shambih, did well to keep out Bruno Milanzi's shot.

Shambih came to the UAE's rescue again in the 18th minute, blocking Gastin Simkonda's crisp volley to frustrate the Malawians, who were making their first appearance at a Fifa tournament. The unlucky Milanzi hit a post for a second time in the 33rd minute. The UAE's best chance came in added time before the break. Fahad Salim, the UAE's top scorer in qualifying for the tournament, tested Cuthbert Seengwa with a curling volley which the Malawi keeper tipped over for a corner.

The UAE looked stronger after the break and al Saffar broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute, converting a cross from the right from Salim. Six minutes after the goal, Malawi were reduced to 10 men after Kondwani Lufeyo was sent off for a second yellow. The numerical advantage allowed Mohammad Sebil to make it 2-0 on 81 minutes. Malawi finished the game with nine men following Simkonda's dismissal in added time for a second booking.

The result means the UAE can book a second round spot if they beat fancied Spain on Thursday. @Email:arizvi@thenational.ae