x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Naser keeps Iraqis at bay for UAE in opener

The UAE national team put up a spirited performance to hold Iraq, the Asian champions, to a scoreless draw in their Gulf Cup opener in Aden, Yemen.

The UAE national team put up a spirited performance to hold Iraq, the Asian champions, to a scoreless draw in their Gulf Cup opener in Aden, Yemen, last night.

They have Majed Naser, the goalkeeper, to thank for keeping the Iraqis at bay after he made an excellent save to deny Younus Mahmoud a goal from the penalty spot three minutes from time.

The Al Wasl stopper dived to his left to push the ball out after Fahad Feraish, the UAE defender, was penalised for a handball.

With the opening match also ending in a 1-1 stalemate between Bahrain and 10-man Oman, the defending champions, Group B looks a wide-open race for the two semi-final berths.

Winning a point would have pleased Srecko Katanec, the UAE coach, who travelled with a squad lacking many key players committed to the Asian Games or kept home by Al Wahda as they prepare for the Club World Cup.

The UAE began well and had scoring opportunities in the opening minutes of either half. Saeed al Kas was wide with a header in front of the goalmouth and Ali Mabkhout's powerful strike from outside the top edge box curled out.

It was a tough, physical contest without many creative movements.

Naser was outstanding throughout. The Iraqis had their chances to score but were left disappointed.

The UAE play Oman on Friday and Bahrain on Monday.

Earlier, Imad Ali put Oman ahead in the 37th minute but his strike was cancelled out by Ibrahim al Mishakis' goal midway through the second half.

Bahrain later had the numerical advantage after Mohammed Shibh was given his marching orders in the 74th minute.

* Compiled by Amith Passela