x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Small steps on a long road for UAE football

The UAE advanced to the second round of the 2012 London Olympics qualifiers last night after completing a 10-1 aggregate victory over Sri Lanka.

ABU DHABI // The UAE advanced to the second round of the 2012 London Olympics qualifiers last night after completing a 10-1 aggregate victory over Sri Lanka.

They now go into the round of 24 for a home-and-away clash with an opponent they will know only after the draw on March 31.

The winner there will advance to the group phase in which 12 teams will play in three groups.

Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, said they will draw up their plans for the next round in June only after finding out their opponents.

"It's going to be tough for both teams, particularly if we are drawn against a team from the Far East, because of the travel time," he said.

The Lankans, who were thrashed 7-1 in the first leg on Tuesday, put up a better display by holding their more skilled opponents 3-0 - giving up all three goals in the opening half - in the second leg last night at the Baniyas stadium.

The UAE broke the deadlock after knocking the ball around for 19 minutes when Rashed Eisa tapped in a cross from Ahmed Ali.

Ahmed Khalil scored twice, the first with a fierce drive from 30 yards, which hit the inside far post before deflecting into the goal, and then collected a long ball from Sultan Bargash al Minhali and shot past Sampath Buddika, the Sri Lankan goalkeeper, from the edge of the area.

The closest the UAE came to score in the second half was when Ali Mabkhout's effort to chip the ball over Buddika crashed against the crossbar five minutes from time.

"Obviously, it was hard to motivate the players when they were leading 10-1 on aggregate," coach Ali said.

"We could have stretched the lead in the second half but we couldn't score from the chances we created. But we can't take anything away from the performance of my players.

"I am very satisfied with the two games and the most important result is that we are now in the second round of this qualification."

The Lankans return home with vital game experience that can be valuable as they prepare for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in Nepal next month.

"We can't ask for any more than they did," said Jang Jung, the South Korean coach of the islanders. "I hope they will have gained from this experience and hopefully improve for next month's competition."

 

apassela@thenational.ae