x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Picture special: Omar back with a bang

Mohammed Omar shows why Dominique Bathenay recalled him from international retirement but a late equaliser spoils his return.

AL AIN // Mohammed Omar showed why Dominique Bathenay recalled him from international retirement with a second-half strike to cap an excellent individual performance but his side gave away a late goal to draw with Iraq.

The veteran Al Nasr forward, 33, a Gulf Cup winner in 2007, gave the UAE reasons to be positive ahead of their defence of the trophy, which begins next Sunday, but a failure to hang on for the victory will worry Bathenay. In truth both sides could have the won the game, getting into some good positions only for poor finishing or the wrong choice of pass to let them down. Bathenay started with a new-look line-up, resting his leading forward Ismail Matar and influential midfielder Abdulraheem Jumaa along with the goalkeeper Majed Nasser. Omar was handed the captain's armband he last wore back in 2007. He was paired with the UAE Player of the Year, the Al Wahda forward Mohamed al Shehhi, 20, in attack. Abdulsalam Jumaa took the role of midfield general.

Bathenay's side had the ball in the Iraq net twice in the first half, but were blown offside on both occasions. Al Shehhi tapped the ball home on 15 minutes after Omar's effort had crashed against the crossbar. And Omar produced a lovely finish after being played through in what looked to be an onside position on the stroke of half-time. In between, Iraq, who play in Group A of the Gulf Cup alongside the hosts Oman, broke the deadlock from a counter attack on 43 minutes. Mulla Mohammed worked his way down the left flank and pulled back a cross from the edge for Mohammed Nasir to volley past the keeper Obaid al Taweela.

However four minutes after the break, Omar, who was a constant threat to Iraq, beat the offside trap after a through pass from Jumaa, another veteran to return from international retirement, and slid the ball past Sabri to equalise. Omar went off to a standing ovation with half an hour to go. Ten minutes before the end, the UAE went ahead although it came in controversial circumstances. As an Iraq player lay injured in the penalty area, Mahmoud Khamis played the ball to Jumaa on the edge of the box. His vicious shot was fumbled by Noor Sabri and Khamis, who had continued his run, slammed the ball into the net. But poor defending undid Bathenay's side, just like in the recent World Cup qualifiers, and this must be addressed ahead of their opening game with Yemen on Jan 5. They couldn't deal with an Iraq corner on 86 minutes and Ali Husain's header ricocheted into the net off al Taweela.