x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE's World Cup hopes dashed

The UAE's 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign came to a close after a 1-1 draw against Iran.

UAE players are dejected after their draw with Iran.
UAE players are dejected after their draw with Iran.

DUBAI // The UAE's 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign came to a close tonight with a 1-1 draw against Iran. The draw left the UAE with just one point from four games of the final round of Asian qualifying, and virtually no chance of winning the two direct berths to the 2010 World Cup from their group. The UAE did have their chance when Abdulraheem Jumaa put the hosts ahead in the 19th minute. But the Iranian captain Karim Bagheri ensured that Iran maintained their unbeaten record against the UAE with the equaliser in the 81st minute. Between those two goals, the UAE wasted numerous opportunities to close out the game for good. The UAE, undoubtedly, deserved more for their efforts in the game, but the Iranian goalkeeper Seyed Mehdi Rahmati stood like a wall under the post to deny the hosts the full three points. The hosts played on a different level than their previous three games of the qualifiers, which ended in defeat. They showed the fight they had promised and Iran were left sweating. The chances came quick and started early, with Ismail al Hammadi weaving his way into the box in the fourth minute before shooting over. A bit rattled, the Iranians tried to slow down the game but could not. The hosts were clearly aware of the weakness in Iran's defence on the right and they exploited it. Haider Ali was the first to expose the chinks as he waltzed into the box in the 11th minute and crossed, but there was no one at the end of his pass. Ismail Matar made an identical foray from the same side, finding yards of space as Sattar Zare and Masoud Shojaei refused to fall back to help out in defence. Seyed Jalal Hosseini rushed in from the left to challenge Matar, who edged past him and crossed for his unmarked captain Jumaa at the top of the box. Jumaa drilled the ball low to the right corner, becoming the first Emirati to score against Iran in official matches. The UAE continued in the same vein after the goal and Nawaf Mubarak almost added a second for the hosts in the 32nd minute. Rahmati did well to punch the ball away for a corner. Nawaf had another chance nine minutes later, but shot over the crossbar. Two minutes later, Rahmati denied Hammadi with a lunging save. The star of UAE's Asian Youth Cup triumph, Ahmed Khalil, who came on to the pitch to a standing ovation in the 69th minute when he replaced Mohammed al Shehi, tried to find the far corner of the net in the 78th minute, but Rahmati was equal to the task. With just nine minutes to go for the final whistle and a memorable win, the UAE defence made their first error of the night and the 34-year-old Bagheri made it count. The veteran striker, returning to the national team after seven years, raced into the box to receive Shojaei's pass and shot past Nasser. In the frantic closing minutes, Khalil and Jumaa had their chances, but luck was just not on their side. arizvi@thenational.ae