x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE clinch U23 Gulf Cup against Kuwait

Ahmed Khalil's 33rd minute diving header seals another title for the UAE's impressive youngsters at the Aspire Stadium in Doha.

DOHA // Champions of Asia at 19 in 2008 and quarter-finalists at the Youth World Cup in Egypt last year, the UAE's "golden generation" added the Under 23 Gulf Championship crown to their list of conquests with an exciting 1-0 win over Kuwait in Qatar. Ahmed Khalil, the top scorer of the tournament, struck the game-clincher in the 33rd minute ? a stunning diving-header that took his tally from the championship to five. With hundreds of UAE fans bussed in from the country supporting their cause, the Emiratis made a spirited start and threatened to bludgeon Kuwait into submission, but the Blues withstood the onslaught through some doughty defence throughout. But their resistance came unstuck in the 33rd minute when Abdulaziz Haiqal floated the ball into the box from the right and Khalil intercepted to leave the keeper stranded.

The Al Ahli sharpshooter flew in to meet Haiqal's cross and flicked it into the ground, past the stunned Kuwait goalkeeper Abdulaziz Mabrouk. Celebrations in the dugout started almost immediately with Mahdi Ali, the coach, exchanging high-fives. The stadium erupted with the joy of the UAE fans. Khalil, the 2008 Asian Youth Player of the Year, made another flashy attempt five minutes later, with a back flick, but it landed on the top of the net. His earlier goal, though, proved to be enough for the UAE. arizvi@thenational.ae