x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Khalil and Matar star in 3-0 win over Kuwait

Youth and experience proved a compelling combination for the UAE in their impressive victory in the friendly last night.

ABU DHABI // Youth and experience proved a compelling combination for the UAE last night as they claimed an impressive 3-0 victory over Kuwait. The youth came in the form of Ahmed Khalil, the 19-year-old striker who opened the scoring in the 23rd minute in the friendly encounter at Al Wahda club's Al Nahyan Stadium. The experience was provided by Ismail Matar, the 27-year-old forward whose goal just before half time effectively sealed the win.

And the substitutes got to work late in the game to add a third as Saeed al Kathiri completed the rout three minutes into added time with a spectacular back heel off Theyab Awana's assist. Srecko Katanec, the national team coach, could not have been more pleased with the night's workout of his players, who regrouped for the first time since their summer camp in Germany nearly four months for the first of their four friendlies.

It was a game the home side dominated from the start, enjoying the majority of the possession as well as holding a territorial advantage . Al Kathiri could have scored a second in added time, but a close-range effort was oushed out by Nawaf al Khalidi, the goalkeeper. And from the ensuing corner Matar blasted his shot over the crossbar. The biggest disappointment, however, was the lukewarm reception they received from the crowd, with barely 1,000 spectators watching the national team's build up to the Gulf Cup in Yemen in November and the Asian Cup in Qatar in January.

Khalil and Amer Abdulrahman have struck a fantastic combination playing for the country's age-group sides. Abdulrahman assisted Khalil in three of the five goals he scored en route to winning the Under 23 Gulf Cup in Qatar last month, where they beat the Kuwait U23s 1-0 in the final. Abdulrahman split the Kuwait defence with a through pass for Khalil to break the offside trap and fire from point blank range for a 23rd minute lead.

Matar doubled the lead five minutes from the break after Mesaed Neda and Ahmed, the Kuwaiti defenders, left a high ball from Khalid Sabeel for each other only for the Wahda striker to steal it and slot it past al Khalidi Katanec started with the Khali and Abdulrahman, two of the four players from the U23 Gulf Cup side he included in his 22-member squad. And Hamdan al Kamali, who captained the national youth team in the Under 20 World Cup last year, was picked in defence.

Subaith Khater had the first go at the Kuwait goal, firing a 35-yard effort that curled away from the far post in the seventh minute. Khalil had second scoring opportunity three minutes after he scored, when Khater put him through from the middle of the field, but young Al Ahli striker failed to get past Neda. Kuwait had only one chance in the first half, but Fahad Ibrahim fired it over the crossbar after Yousuf Nader had sent in a neat cross from the left-side of the box.

Katanec's men slackened a bit in the second half, seemingly resting on the two first half strikes. It got the Slovenian animated in the dugout before he made a string of changes to give the rest of the squad a feel for the match. Khalil was one of those substituted but Matar stayed on, and looked dangerous whenever he had possession. Katanec would have seen enough of Khalil before handing the striking duties to al Kathiri, Matar's teammate at Wahda.

Kuwait made some inroads but none were threatening. Majed Naser, the goalkeeper, had an easy night but for one piece of work when he had to charge down to beat Khalid Khalaf, a second half substitute. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae