Srecko Katanec, the UAE coach, can justifiably feel proud of himself for steering his second string side to a vital win against Bahrain.
UAE reach Gulf Cup semi-finals
UAE Khater 04’, Fares Juma 08’, Ahmed Jumaa 64’,
Bahrain Fatai 35’
Man of the match: Subait Khater (UAE)
Srecko Katanec, the UAE coach, can justifiably feel proud of himself for steering his group of players through to the last four of the Gulf Cup after his side ran out comfortable 3-1 winners over Bahrain in Yemen last night.
The Slovenian has seen his side, minus the services of the UAE's Asian Games silver medal-winning team plus the entire Al Wahda squad, who are preparing for December's Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, manage two scoreless draws against Iraq, the Asian champions, and Oman, the defending champions, before knocking out Bahrain to seal their passage as leaders of Group B into a semi-final match against Saudi Arabia.The UAE got off to a bright start, scoring twiceinside eight minutes to take a 2-0 lead.
Subait Khater scored a sublime opener when he rattled in a long-range free kick in the fourth minute and Fares Juma, who was afforded acres of room in the Bahrain penalty box, headed in from another set-piece from the Al Jazira midfielder.
Ahmed Jumaa, the substitute, then regained the two-goal cushion after Abdulla Fatai had pulled one back for Bahrain.
The victory took the UAE to the top of the group on goal difference from Iraq, after both teams had finished on five points. Iraq held Oman to a scoreless result in the other game and will now face Kuwait for a place in the final. Both matches will be played on December 2.
Ismail al Hammadi was brought down and Khater curled in the free kick over the wall from 30 yards for Abbas Ahmed, the Bahrain goalkeeper, to watch in amazement as the ball turned sharply to nestle in the corner of the net.
Katanec's men were two up four minutes later when Khater's free kick from the right flank found Juma, who timed his run to the near post perfectly to connect with a powerful header that sailed inside the near post.
Jumaa completed a fine move to score from the edge of the box after a neat interchange between Khater and al Hammadi, who set-up the Jazira midfielder.
"The two early goals made all the difference," said Ali al Wehaibi, the UAE left winger, said in a post-match television interview.
"It relieved the pressure and we knew it was hard for Bahrain to come back. But we didn't fall in defence with the two-goal lead but kept attacking and put the opposition under pressure. It is indeed a great feeling to be in the semi-finals when you are not expected to be there."
Al Wehaibi, al Hammadi, Jumaa and Maher Jassim were constant threats to the Bahrain goal, who took to the field needing a win to have any hopes of progressing.
But the two early goals had them under pressure for the whole game. Fatai's goal in the 35th minute offered them a glimmer of hope before Jumaa's second-half strike buried their hopes.
Majed Naser, the UAE goalkeeper, was again outstanding. He made some fine saves including a couple of low effors from Fawzi Ayish in either half.
• Kuwait v Iraq
• UAE v Saudi Arabia
* Compiled by Amith Passela