UAE’s Asian Cup road comes to end, as Australia pounce early for 2-0 win
Defenders did the damage for Australia. Trent Sainsbury scored on a header from a corner in the third minute, and Jason Davidson added the second, from just inside the box in the 14th minute.
The Emiratis were making their deepest penetration in the Asian Cup since 1996, when they reached the final as hosts.
The UAE play Iraq in the third-place match in Newcastle on Friday. A victory would give them third place and their best result in an Asian Cup played outside their homeland.
Australia advance to the final against South Korea, who defeated them in group play last week. The Aussies will be seeking their first Asian Cup championship and South Korea their first since 1960.
Mahdi Ali’s team may have been a bit tired as they played their fifth match in 17 days, and their third in succession against one of Asia’s four 2014 World Cup teams. They earlier lost 1-0 to Iran on a late goal, and defeated Japan in a quarter-final shootout.
The one moment when it looked as if the Emiratis might put up a sterner fight came in the 10th minute, when the deficit was 1-0. Abdulaziz Sanquor made a nice run down the right side, turned the corner and crossed the ball to striker Ahmed Khalil, who was tightly marked and unable to take a touch before shooting. His shot glanced off the near post.
The UAE were better the final 45 minutes than they were the first, but even after Mahdi Ali made three substititions to increase their attacking potency, they were unable to get a clear look at the goal. Khalil had a long-distance shot that was not far off target, and Ali Mabkhout was an instant late in getting off a shot from close range. The shot was blocked.
Australia were particularly effective in blanketing Mabkhout, the co-leader in this tournament with four goals.
The first quarter hour will be re-examined by the UAE; it could hardly have gone worse.
Coach Mahdi Ali returned Mohammed Abdulrahman to the line-up, ahead of Ismail Al Hammadi or Habib Fardan, presenting what he considers his most efficient attacking machine.
In the third minute, they would have wished they had another specialist defender. Australia’s first corner went not to Tim Cahill, which is what the UAE defence expected, but to the unmarked Sainsbury, who headed the ball down and to his left, leaving goalkeeper Majed Naser frozen.
On the play, Mohaned Salem seemed to leave Sainsbury to become the second man marking Cahill, the veteran known for his skill in the air.
After Khalil’s 10th-minute close call, Australia got the second.
It came on another cross, which the UAE central defenders twice failed to clear, and the ball popped out to the edge of the box, where Davidson was waiting to smash it home inside the near post.
It appeared he should have been marked by Omar Abdulrahman, but he got caught watching the play and Davidson was alone when he struck the ball.
It was a moment that seemed to vindicate one of several tart remarks directed at the UAE playmaker on Sunday by Sainsbury, who said he was “lazy” and added that he thought Australia could take advantage of it.
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Updated: January 27, 2015 04:00 AM