x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gulf Cup: Mahdi Ali plans to rest players for final group game

Pressure off for next game says coach, while Al Ain coach Olaroiu praises the UAE FA for promoting the Olympic staff to senior set-up

Mahdi Ali, UAE's head coach, left, is planning to make changes to his team for tomorrow's match against Oman. Fadi Al-Assaad / Reuters
Mahdi Ali, UAE's head coach, left, is planning to make changes to his team for tomorrow's match against Oman. Fadi Al-Assaad / Reuters

The day after the UAE secured their passage to the semi-finals of the Gulf Cup, Mahdi Ali made clear his intention to rest some key players against Oman on Friday.

Ali Mabkhout and Majed Hassan scored on either side of Abdulwahab Al Malood's strike for a 2-1 victory for the UAE against Bahrain, the hosts, on Tuesday, taking their tally to six points.

"We are aware how important the result of our game is for the other teams but resting some players will not make us less motivated to win against Oman," the UAE coach said. "At this stage of the competition to preserve our players for the next game is paramount to us. We believe any team in a similar position would do the same."

Apart from the UAE, already assured of playing a last-four game on Tuesday, the other three teams in Group A all have a chance to qualify for the next round.

The UAE play Oman, who are one point, at the same time on Friday that Qatar, on three, faces Bahrain who also are on one point.

Mahdi Ali praised Bahrain and conceded the Emiratis were fortunate to have come out of the game with three points.

"Bahrain played a technically high game and they created more scoring opportunities than us. They were well organised in the defence and had our forwards well covered throughout the game," he said.

"However, our players kept the pressure and more importantly scored when it mattered. We were a bit lucky but success doesn't come without the efforts, and all praise to the players for a job well done."

Mahdi Ali also revealed that they would have been satisfied with a point from Bahrain.

"Our game plan was not to lose," he said. "One point could have still been good enough but to have won and three points really takes the pressure off for the next game."

Branko Ivankovic, the Al Wahda coach, paid tribute to Mahdi Ali and the UAE team, which included three of his players.

"All credit for Mahdi Ali for creating and grooming this excellent young team," the Croatian said. "I watched them play in the Olympics and have been following them in all the friendlies they played. One thing that stands out is the excellent team spirit.

"This team has the quality, the stability and, most important of all, the team spirit. The atmosphere that surrounds the team is incredible and this is a big step to make success."

Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, said the Football Association made the right decision to move the whole of the Olympic team coaching staff up to the senior side.

"A great difference was seen between the UAE team and the Qatari team," he said. "The UAE had the right balance and, more importantly, the harmony among the players."

apassela@thenational.ae

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