x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Olympics: UAE 1 Uruguay 2

Mahdi Ali's team fail to capitalise on taking the lead as recovery from South Americans sees them win opener in men's football tournament.

The UAE's Ahmed Khalil, right, gets into a tangle with Uruguay goalkeeper Martin Campana during their Olympic tie at Old Trafford. Andrew Yates / AFP
The UAE's Ahmed Khalil, right, gets into a tangle with Uruguay goalkeeper Martin Campana during their Olympic tie at Old Trafford. Andrew Yates / AFP

MANCHESTER // Ismail Matar had his chance and took it. Had his UAE teammates been as clinical, they might have staged one of the biggest upsets in Olympic football history on Thursday night.

It was a game that tight, Uruguay by a goal in 90 hard-fought minutes. The UAE did well to limit an opposition attack led by Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Napoli's Edinson Cavani to two goals, neither by one of the illustrious strikers.

But they were unable to convert a handful of chances, and that is why they must get at least one point on Sunday against Team Great Britain to keep alive their chances of escaping the group stage here at London 2012.

In the 22nd minute, Matar received a pass from Omar Abdulrahman, took it into the box, got the goalkeeper to the ground, stepped past him and banged the ball into the goal.

It was the sort of goal Matar has been scoring since 2003, when he was named the best player of the World Youth Championship, held in the UAE.

"It was a high-level game," Matar said. "If you get a chance, you have to finish that chance.

"I think we played a great game. It's not easy; we made some mistakes."

The UAE will rue two missed chances involving Ahmed Kahlil.

On the first, the striker was jostled heavily while carrying the ball in the box, enough to warrant a foul, a red card and a penalty, but the referee, David O'Leary of New Zealand, made no sign even as Emirati fans were shouting in the stand.

Mahdi Ali, the coach, thought the referee was overly lenient towards the Uruguayans, who have never lost in 11 Olympic matches.

"I think we played a very good game and we at least deserve a draw," he said. "There we so many chances. We had the better chances, but we were not lucky in scoring.

"I have been in football since I was six years old as a player and as a coach, and I have never seen in my life a game of 90 minutes and only one foul called in favour of the UAE team. As a player and coach, I never speak about the referees, but I think the referee was treating the Uruguay players like angels."

Khalil's second good chance was a quick opening inside the box in the 77th minute, and he struck it wide.

"Of course, the team is disappointed," Matar said. "The result is not what we want and we deserve better. This is the first game and it is not the end. We'll see until next time."

In the other game in Group A, a late Senegal goal led to a 1-1 draw with Team Great Britain.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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