x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Daei praises UAE's spirit

Ali Daei is frugal with words and not too generous in praise. But the Iranian coach was forced to applaud the UAE after their spirited show.

DUBAI // Ali Daei is frugal with words and not too generous in praise. But the Iranian coach was forced to applaud the UAE after their spirited show in the 1-1 draw at Al Nasr on Wednesday night. Karim Bagheri saved Iran from their first defeat to the UAE with an 81st minute equaliser and Iran otherwise created few other chances against opponents ranked 69 places below them in the Fifa rankings.

Daei saluted Dominque Bathenay's men. "The UAE played probably their best football in a very long time," said the Iranian coach. "They had no alternative but to win this game. This was their last chance and they came out fighting. Many teams would have lost to them in this match, so I'm happy with my players for earning a point from the game." Daei, however, was not too pleased with the performance of his own side in the first-half.

"The fact that our goalkeeper was the man of the match shows that our defenders gave too many scoring opportunities to the opponents," said Daei. "We have never seen our team play such a poor game. They gifted the ball to the UAE on many occasions and gave them many scoring opportunities. "This continued at the beginning of the second half, but our performance gradually improved. The closer we got to the end of the game, we started playing better football."

Meanwhile, Coach Huh Jung-moo was delighted as South Korea recorded a hard-fought 2-0 win over 10-men away to Saudi Arabia to take command of a tight Group Two. After Naif Hazazi was sent-off just before the hour mark, receiving a second yellow for diving, the game swung in Korea's favour and Lee Keun-ho and substitute Park Chu-young struck in the final 13 minutes to ensure a first competitive victory over Saudi Arabia in 19 years.

Huh said: "We did not play our usual style, but after we scored we regained our confidence and produced a good performance." His counterpart Nasser Al Johar hailed Saudi Arabia's display but was left to rue Hazazi's crucial dismissal. "It changed everything as we lost a good player and a chance to take the lead," said Johar. "But as far as the match is concerned, I congratulate the Koreans for their victory."

arizvi@thenational.ae