x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Olympics: Concerns for UAE after loss to 2-1 warm-up Honduras

Mahdi Ali's men unable to take advantage of better possession during defeat in Olympics 2012 warm-up match.

The UAE football team, during a practice session in Lienz last week, will play New Zealand before travelling to the UK for the Olympics. Picture courtesy of UAEFA
The UAE football team, during a practice session in Lienz last week, will play New Zealand before travelling to the UK for the Olympics. Picture courtesy of UAEFA

MATREI, Austria // The result, a one-goal friendly loss to Honduras in yet another gorgeous Alpine town, was not particularly alarming for the UAE Olympic team.

But three aspects in the making of it have to be of some concern.

The first was that Omar Abdulrahman, the creative midfielder, did not play last night.

He scored the only goal in the qualifying win against Australia and set up the vital equaliser at Uzbekistan.

The diminutive Al Ain attacker rarely had his trainers off during the match, and it is fair to wonder if he is carrying an injury.

The second was the inability of the Emiratis to turn possession, which they had in buckets, into good scoring chances, and their inability to convert all but one of those they created.

And the third was what looked rather like an assumption that Honduras could not attack, for which the UAE paid with the equaliser before a crowd of several hundred at Tauenstadion.

Amer Abdulrahman, the UAE playmaker, dominated the match.

The ball was always at his feet, and he not only sent promising through balls ahead to his teammates, he won at least a dozen while defending.

However, the Emiratis usually fell one pass short of a real shot on goal, and it is fair to wonder if the presence of Omar Abdulrahman as a second creator would have made a difference.

Hamdan Al Kamali, the defender, got the opening goal. Amer Abdulrahman curled in a corner, the Honduras keeper punched it feebly, and the ball fell into a crowd of players, and Al Kamali was able to lift it over the defence and into the goal.

One minute later, Ahmed Khalil missed by inches of doubling the advantage. And moments after that, it was even.

The UAE seemed almost surprised that Honduras were in opposition territory, and Khamis Esmail, the defensive midfielder, seemed distracted as Anthony Lozano, who plays for Valencia, found himself quite alone, 25 yards out, and fired a fast-moving shot inside the far post, just out of reach of goalkeeper Ali Kasheif.

The decisive goal came as Maynor Figueroa, the Wigan Athletic veteran, pushed into the box 17 minutes after he came on as a substitute.

His feet got tangled with those of the central midfielder Mohammed Ahmed, Figueroa went down, and the referee pointed to the spot.

It was a difficult call, but not an incorrect one.

Lozano converted the penalty, shooting just above the prone Kasheif.

Aside from the absence of Omar Abdulrahman, it probably is not rash to suggest Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, had something very much resembling what will be his first XI when the Emiratis open Olympic Games action against Uruguay at Old Trafford on July 26.

Ismail Matar and Khalil led the forward line, with Ismail Al Hammadi, Amer Abdulrahman, Essa and Esmail in midfield, and Abdulaziz Sanquor and Abdulaziz wide in the back, with Al Kamali and Ahmed in the middle.

The UAE have one more friendly before departing for England, versus New Zealand's Olympic team, on Tuesday.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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