x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE come up trumps thanks to 'Red Card'

A stunning free-kick from Al Ahli's Ahmed Khalil earnes the UAE 1-0 win over Honduras and a second-round berth in the Under 20 World Cup.

UAE players celebrate after Ahmed Khalil's magnificent first-half free-kick against Honduras at the Alexandrial Stadium which gave them a 1-0 victory.
UAE players celebrate after Ahmed Khalil's magnificent first-half free-kick against Honduras at the Alexandrial Stadium which gave them a 1-0 victory.

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT // A stunning free-kick from Al Ahli's Ahmed Khalil earned the UAE 1-0 win over Honduras and a second-round berth in the Under 20 World Cup here. The three points took the UAE to the top of Group F and even if they are defeated by Hungary in their final group game tomorrow they are guaranteed to progress as one of the best third-placed teams. Although it was the 41st-minute free-kick from Khalil - nicknamed the Red Card - which ultimately won the game, Saad Surour, the rock in the team's sturdy defence, said it was their fearlessness against a high-flying Honduras side which was the most important ingredient. Honduras begun the game as favourites after beating Hungary 3-0 in their opening match, but they looked listless against a defiant UAE side, who were brimming with confidence after their 2-2 draw against South Africa in the first game. "We knew Honduras were a dangerous side and they had scored three goals against Hungary," said Surour. "We respected them for that, but the important thing is we were not scared or overawed. "Fear never entered our hearts, before or during the game, and we were able to grab the opportunities that came our way. We stayed calm and this strong self-belief is the main reason why we are the champions of Asia and why we are in the second round now." The UAE thoroughly deserved the standing ovation they received from the 12,000 fans at the final whistle. The game was not without controversy, however, as three minutes into added time at the end of the match, the UAE's Ahmed Ali was shown a red card for his involvement in a scuffle that broke out after Honduras' Reinieri Mayorquin had pushed Sultan al Menhali to the ground. Mayorquin was also sent off and there were eight yellow cards shown during the match. Ali will miss tomorrow's match which will decide their position in the group, but the UAE coach, Mahdi Ali, is confident he has enough options in reserve. "We would have liked Ali to be available for the final game since he has been in good touch," Mahdi Ali said. "But we have four strikers in the team, all the same technical and physical levels, and each one of them is capable of leading the attack. "We still have Khalil, Ali Mabkhoot and Maher Jassim to pick from, and if needed we could use Theyab Awana in attack." Emilio Umanzor, the coach of Honduras, said that he was impressed with the UAE and that his team were beaten by the better side. "I have to admit the UAE did a great job," he said. "They played a great game and showed a lot of character. It was a hard-fought match. They were patient and able to take advantage. "We, unfortunately, did not have that opportunity. We went over our heads in the first-half and the UAE were a bit hungrier than us. "We did the best we could, but going into the second half we were against the wall. The damage was already done."

arizvi@thenational.ae