x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Team GB quick to praise UAE players after ending their Olympic dream

Great Britain goalscorer Scott Sinclair led the tributes to Mahdi Ali's side after their gutsy performance against the hosts at Wembley Stadium.

The UAE's Mohamed Ahmad holds off Team GB's Scott Sinclair during their London 2012 clash
The UAE's Mohamed Ahmad holds off Team GB's Scott Sinclair during their London 2012 clash

LONDON, UK // They no longer are in contention for a medal, but the UAE Olympic team gained more admirers with a skilled and spirited display against Team Great Britain at Wembley Stadium.

Since arriving in England for the London 2012 Olympics, the Emiratis have led Uruguay into the 41st minute and equalised with Team GB on Khalid Essa's goal on the hour last night.

But they again were unable to maintain their momentum, absorbing a 3-1 defeat to go with the 2-1 loss to Uruguay, assuring they will go home when Group A play is completed.

"They looked strong," Scott Sinclair, the Team GB substitute who scored the game-winner, said of the Emiratis in an interview with Fifa.com. "They brought it back to 1-1 and it was a tight game. They are a difficult side to play against."

Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach said: "There was not a lot of difference between the two teams." He added: "We fought hard, and I think anything could have happened."

It certainly seemed that way when Essa scored after slicing through the Team GB back line and calmly beating Jack Butland at the near post. The goal came after another incisive pass from Omar Abdulrahman, the Al Ain midfielder who has impressed many with his technical skills and vision.

Connor Henderson, the Arsenal midfielder, last night tweeted: "Omar Abdulrahman can play [by the way]. Wand of a left foot."

With the crowd of more than 80,000 shocked into silence, the UAE pressed for a go-ahead goal, and Ahmed Khalil came close to getting it.

However, Sinclair put the hosts ahead when the UAE goalkeeper Ali Kasheif made his only error of the match, when he was unable to intercept Craig Bellamy's cross, and the spilled ball fell at the feet of Sinclair, who tapped it home in the 73rd minute.

Daniel Sturridge, like Sinclair a substitute, clinched it on a breakaway in the 76th minute, chipping the ball over Kasheif.

Team GB had taken a lead in the 16th minute on a header by Ryan Giggs, the Manchester United veteran, who with fellow Welsh veteran Craig Bellamy dominated the first half. Only several fine saves by Kasheif, the Al Jazira goalkeeper, kept the UAE from facing a significant half-time deficit.

"I would say probably the substitution from the manager was the real turning point - the two subs came off the bench and made a real impact for us, which was pleasing," said Stuart Pearce, the Team GB coach.

"Certainly the result was the most important thing this evening - we needed to win this game to give us a lift and enhance the belief in the group."

Team GB move atop Group A with four points, along with Senegal, who defeated Uruguay 2-0 on two goals by Moussa Konate. Uruguay have three points and play the hosts on Wednesday, and the UAE face Senegal.

"We have to build for the last game against Uruguay; they need to beat us and we need to beat them," Pearce said. "We are going to try and win every game; we've set the team up to do that always."

Mahdi Ali said his side will finish out the tournament with another maximum effort. "We will continue to give our best and put on a strong performance even in the next match with Senegal," he said.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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