Striker scores four goals as hosts beat Bahrain 6-2 amid angry chants by fans over hurt caused by AFC's nickname error.
UAE 6 Bahrain 2: Ali Mabkhout scores four to lead rout
DUBAI // The UAE took out their recent frustrations on Bahrain tonight, routing the visitors 6-2.
The players were angry about the slight on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) website and upset over the lack of support from their fans, but they put in a powerful performance in the friendly at the Zabeel Stadium.
Ali Mabkhout was the star of UAE's impressive show, scoring four and earning a penalty, which was converted by Hamdan Al Kamali. He also supplied Omar Abdulrahman for the home side's sixth goal of the night.
"I am very happy for Ali Mabkhout," said Mahdi Ali, the coach of the UAE national team. "He has started scoring again – he got four tonight and made two assists. He is one of the talented players for the future and I hope he continues at the same level."
The anger over the "disrespect" shown towards the UAE team in a story appearing on the AFC website was obvious before the start of the game. "To those who called us Sand Monkeys, we are Zayed's Lions," read a banner unfurled by the UAE players as the national anthems played.
"AFC shame on you", said a banner in the stands; "AFC remember that UAE has been insulted", said another.
"We don't want to exaggerate about the event," said Mahdi Ali. "There was a mistake and the AFC have sent an official letter of apology. They have rectified the mistake on the website and they have published an apology on the website as well.
"We have shown that we were not happy and we have to close this chapter now."
Counting the number of people sitting behind those banners, it seemed not many cared about those insults or the national team.
The stands were empty yet again. There were about a 150 fans sitting behind the banners. A similar number were scattered around the rest of the stadium.
"I would like to thank all the fans who attended this game," said Mahdi Ali, who had expressed his disappointment over the lack of support after Friday's friendly against Uzbekistan.
"We know it [the crowd] was not what we expect but we are very confident that when the official games come and when we need them, they will be there at the matches."
All the pre-match emotions, however, seemed to have distracted the home team and they were a goal down in the sixth minute after conceding a penalty. The referee pointed to the spot after Al Kamali dragged Ismail Abdul-Latif down and the Bahraini striker scored from the spot.
The UAE drew level in the 19th minute when Mabkhout headed home Abdulrahman's delivery. The Bahrainis were, however, back in the lead in the 27th minute when their captain Hussain Ali Baba rose over the UAE defence to head in a corner.
Mabkhout got the equaliser in the 39th minute when the Bahrain goalkeeper's clearance bounced back off the Al Jazira striker into the goal. Mabkhout then earned a penalty in the 50th minute when he was tripped by Mohammed Al Sayed and Al Kamali converted the spot kick to give the UAE the lead for the first time in the match.
Two minutes later, Mabkhout made it 4-2 with a dazzling finish, jumping over a tackle by Walid Mohammed and muscling his way past Al Sayed before shooting into the corner. His fourth of the night came in the 65th minute, after he was sent clear by Mohammed Fawzi.
"We played a good game, but I believe there are still a few things we need to work on," Mahdi Ali said. "We took two easy goals today and the last game as well. We have to work harder to rectify these things in the future. It's good that these things [mistakes] are happening in a friendly game. We hope they will not be happening in the official matches."
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