x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Japan 1 UAE 0: Mahdi Ali kicks off reign with friendly defeat

A second-half header from Japanese forward Mike Havenaar proved the difference at the Big Swan Stadium.

Japan forward Shinji Kagawa tries to beat UAE goalkeeper Ali Khaseif during their friendly.
Japan forward Shinji Kagawa tries to beat UAE goalkeeper Ali Khaseif during their friendly.

NIIGATA // Mahdi Ali’s spell as national coach of the UAE got underway with  a 1-0 defeat to Japan in Niigata this afternoon.

Nevertheless, it was a creditable result as Ali's side went down by solitary goal from Mike Havenaar.

The exchanges were even until the tall Japanese forward rose above the UAE defence to connect a header off a dipping left cross to snatch the winner.

The UAE’s best chance was created by Omar Abdulrahman. The diminutive midfielder sent a through pass to Khamis Ismail, who darted into the box to fire a bullet which was blocked by the Japan goalkeeper in the first half.

Ahmed Khalil was late on a low long cross from Abdulaziz Haikal and then the host had their best chance from a counter attack in the very next minute.

Havenaar’s header was reflectively saved by the goalkeeper Ali Kasheif’s outstretched leg with a minute left for the break.

Japan currently lead the 2014 World Cup qualifying Group B by five points from Iraq, Australia and Jordan. They meet Iraq at Saitama on Tuesday.

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