x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UAE beach soccer draw a line in the sand

The UAE topped Morocco 3-2 in their Intercontinental Cup opener on Tuesday night.

The UAE during Tuesday night's match with Morocco at the Intercontinental Cup. Christopher Pike / The National
The UAE during Tuesday night's match with Morocco at the Intercontinental Cup. Christopher Pike / The National

DUBAI // Exhausted and still suffering from the effects of jet lag, the UAE were far from their best against Morocco last night, but still managed to eke out a 3-2 win in their opening game of the Intercontinental Cup.

The UAE players returned from Brazil late on Monday night following their participation in the Club World Cup and the effects of the trip were evident as they made a scratchy start, struggling for rhythm.

“The first game is always difficult,” said Ali Karim, who struck the third goal for the UAE.

“We arrived late from Brazil and then many players had to report for work in the morning. I had to go home to Abu Dhabi and there were some players who live as far as Khor Fakkan.

“So we are really glad to get through this game, especially since we lost 7-3 to Morocco the last time we played them. But on behalf of the team, I promise you will see a much better performance in the upcoming matches.”

After a barren first period, Hassan Ali put the hosts ahead in the second minute of the second period, following some deft footwork in front of goal.

The UAE should have been up 2-0 six minutes later when they received a penalty, but the Moroccan goalkeeper Khalil Benali managed to keep Ahmed Beshir’s shot out of the net.

Ali, however, made sure the UAE finished the second period with a 2-0 lead, blasting in a free kick in the final minute of the session.

Abdelkabir Moufakir brought Morocco back with a long-range effort in the opening minute of the final period, but only 21 seconds later, Karim made it 3-1, flicking home a rebound off the post.

With only three minutes left, the hosts got a bit casual and that allowed Morocco a last-ditch chance at winning, with Anas Al Hadaoui stealing the ball from the feet of a UAE defender to slot home.

The UAE, however, held on to their narrow lead for a win.

The star of the opening day, however, was the Iran goalkeeper Seyedpeyman Hosseinilargani, who followed up an outstanding game with a save in the penalty shoot-out as the Asian champions stunned the two-time reigning world and Intercontinental champions Russia 3-2 on penalties after the teams finished at 2-2 after extra time.

Egor Shaykov opened the scores in the fifth minute of the game, but Moslem Mesigar equalised for Iran in the fifth minute of the third period. The Iranians then took the lead after 22 seconds of extra time, when Mohammed Ahmadzadeh nodded in a throw from their outstanding goalkeeper.

With 55 seconds remaining, however, Yury Krasheninnikov found the target to force the game into a penalty shoot-out, where Hosseinilargani blocked the first of Russia’s three kicks, taken by Ilya Leonov, to seal the fate of a very physical game.

Brazil, the original kings of beach soccer before the tsars of Russia took over, avoided a similar fate later in the night, bouncing back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Italy 5-2, with their captain, Bruno, scoring four times.

The eight-nation event had earlier kicked off with an engrossing duel between Switzerland and Mexico, which the Europeans clinched 6-5 in extra time.