x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Rest is UAE squad's reward ahead of Bahrain showdown

Goals from Sara Hasanain, Jamila Marek, Dalila Zerrouki, Imem Trodi and Sabrine Mamay on target for UAE in 5-0 rout of Lebanon.

ABU DHABI // The UAE set up a semi-final clash with Bahrain in the West Asian Women's Championship after a 5-0 demolition of Lebanon last night at the Sultan bin Zayed Stadium.

Sara Hasanain got the defending champions off to a strong start with a second-minute strike and created the next goal with a neat cross for Jamila Marek to head in midway in the first half.

Dalila Zerrouki converted a spot-kick a minute before the break after Marwa Khamis had brought down Marek with a crude tackle.

Imen Trodi and Sabrine Mamay added two more to the UAE's tally early in the second half to complete the rout.

"My first task was to win this game," said Hassan Ajenoui, the UAE coach. "I told my players to try and score early and it worked perfectly well for us. The early goal took the pressure off and the players settled in pretty well to win quite comfortably at the end."

It was a game the UAE were expected to win to qualify second, behind Iran, to whom they lost 4-1, in Group B. "Bahrain are a strong team from what I have seen of them but I am very hopeful we have the stuff to win this game," said Ajenoui, the Moroccan-born Portuguese who took charge of the defending champions a month ago.

"Of course, we respect all oppositions and Bahrain is a vastly improved team and it will take a good team to defeat them.

"I consider my team as a good team and if we can play true to our potential, we can win."

Ajenoui has declared a rest day for his players today and expects them to come out tomorrow fresh for the Bahrain match.

"It has been a very hard group phase for all the players where they had to play three games in six days," he said. "I have given them the day off and also made maximum substitutions in the second half to allow some of my key players more time to recover.

"It is not only my players but I feel all the teams face the same problem. To play three matches in six days of 90 minutes duration in humid weather conditions is very testing for any player."

Bahrain won Group A by virtue of a better goal difference after they tied on seven points with Jordan. The two teams had played out a 2-2 draw earlier.

Iran and Jordan will meet in the other semi-final after Iran beat Syria 4-1 last night to top Group B.