x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Katanec up and running

Srecko Katanec got his first victory as UAE coach against Jordan, but there was barely anyone there to see it.

The UAE, in white, overpowered their opponents, who are ranked 129th in the world.
The UAE, in white, overpowered their opponents, who are ranked 129th in the world.

DUBAI // Srecko Katanec got his first victory as UAE coach against Jordan, but there was barely anyone there to see it. For the second time in four days the crowd stayed away, with a couple of hundred Jordanian fans vastly outnumbering the home supporters. This must be a serious concern for the UAE Football Association, as their efforts to attract fans seem to be going unnoticed.

Mohammed al Shehhi, who was starting for the first time after a lengthy absence from an injury he suffered last season, broke the deadlock with a superb header 10 minutes before the break. The Al Wahda forward timed his run to perfection to connect with a deep cross from the right from Ali al Wehaibi to power a bullet header into the top corner. It made up for a sitter he missed from close range four minutes earlier when he shot straight at the visiting goalkeeper Amir Shafiya.

The closest Jordan came in the first half was when Abdulla Zeib's effort from the edge box breezed over the crossbar. Of the team who started the dismal 1-1 draw with Palestine on Saturday, only midfielders Mahmoud Khamis, Eisa Ali and Amer Mubarak kept their places as Katanecs rang the changes as he attempted to find his best line-up. Al Shehhi and Saeed al Kas, who both came on as substitutes against Palestine, led the attack.

Katanec made four changes during the break, one of whom was the young Al Ain forward Ahmed Khamis who scored the second. Khamis, who was called up to the squad for the injured Ismail Matar, doubled the lead with a fine solo run. He beat the offside trap after a bemused Jordanian defence seemed to stop playing. He ran almost half the length of field and rounded Shafiya before tapping the ball into the empty net in the 58th minute.

Jordan got back into the game in the 70th minute when Zeib beat the offside trap and earned a penalty when he was brought down by Ali Kashief, a half-time substitute - although it looked like the UAE goalkeeper got a touch on the ball. Zeib converted the spot-kick to reduce the lead 2-1. But the substitute Mohammed Suroor restored the two-goal cushion, also from a penalty, after he was brought down by Basen Satin six minutes from time.

The result will have pleased the Slovenian Katanec. The lack of supporters, however, shows that the nation seems to have lost faith in its national team. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae Tough between the posts, s2