UAE are a tower of strength as they defeat Japan on penalties to reach Asian Cup semi-finals
Sydney // A beaming Mahdi Ali set his sights on winning the Asian Cup after a dramatic quarter-final win yesterday over holders Japan put his team through to a semi-final match-up with hosts Australia.
The UAE won a penalty shoot-out 5-4 after Ali Mabkhout’s seventh-minute goal had been cancelled in the 81st minute by Gaku Shibasaki’s shot from the edge of the box.
“I told the players that you don’t always have to play good football to win the game. Sometimes you have to play with your heart, with spirit and sacrifice,” the UAE coach said. The game was almost a mirror image of the Emiratis’ 1-0 loss to Iran in group play, when the UAE dominated statistically.
In this one, Japan had enormous edges in possession (68 per cent), shots (35-3) and passes (799-396) piled up while pursuing the equaliser.
“As I said before, football sometimes is not fair,” Mahdi Ali said. “It was not fair to us in the Iran match and today it showed us its other face. I think we deserved to get to the semi-final.”
“We were the better team in all aspects of the game, including attack,” said Javier Aguirre, Japan’s Mexican coach. “We were careless at the start of the game, which caused us to concede a goal. Then we had to fight for goals.
“I think the UAE played the match of their lives to get that result, and I congratulate them.”
Japan had not conceded in the tournament until Mabkhout’s goal, which came after an eight-pass sequence that concluded with Amer Abdulrahman’s long ball to the striker, who scored his fourth goal of the tournament.
The UAE face the hosts in Newcastle on Tuesday.
“Winning against Japan, the winners of the last Asian Cup is great,” Mahdi Ali said.
“It will give the players more confidence and motivation for the next game.
“We fought for 120 minutes, and we thank God that we won this game.
“Playing against Australia here will also be a very tough game. We have just two days, they have three. Also, we have to travel, so we will try and have a quick recovery and prepare the team for the next match. We don’t have a long time.”
The coach was happy to discuss Omar Abdulrahman’s “Panenka” penalty in the shootout, a chip over Japan’s goalkeeper that gave the UAE a 1-0 lead.
“It was a fantastic penalty,” he said. “As it was the first penalty, it made the spirit of the Japan goalkeeper drop. We are very happy with this fantastic goal, but I told him not to do it again because my heart cannot take it.”
The UAE playmaker said: “Hopefully we won’t have this pressure again.”
Of Japan, Omar Abdulrahman said: “They controlled the game better than us, but we stuck together, we attacked as a unit and defended as a unit.”
The UAE wore black armbands for the match as a memorial to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and Mabkhout did not celebrate his goal as a sign of respect.
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Updated: January 23, 2015 04:00 AM