x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

UAE win Asian U19 title

The UAE wins the AFC Under 19 Championship for the first time after a 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan in Saudi Arabia.

Going into the final of the AFC Under 19 Championship against Uzbekistan, the UAE striker Ahmed Khalil had just one wish: to return home with the cup and dedicate it to the Rulers and fans. His dream did come true, but with a bonus: he returned home with not one, but two trophies. Khalil, 17, scored twice to lead the UAE to a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan and that show earned him the Most Valuable Player award for the tournament. Khalil was the top scorer of the tournament in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, with four goals ? three of which came when it mattered the most. He rattled the Aussies with a fourth minute strike in the semis and then sealed the UAE's first-ever win in the continental championship with a brace in the final. The young Emirati hero, however, remained humbled in his hour of glory. "I thank God for the award," he said. "But I did not come here to achieve personal glory. "We were here to win the tournament and that is the most important prize for me." Khalil put the UAE ahead after 33 minutes with a stunning shot to the top left corner of the net, which came from a free-kick 25 yards out. "I believe that goal is one of the best in the tournament," said the delighted UAE coach Mahdi Ali. Uzbekistan equalised in the 64th minute when Sherzodbek Karimov's corner was headed on by Sherzod Azamov to Kenja Turaev, who put the ball in the back of the net from a close range. Their joy was, however, short-lived as Khalil fired home a rebound in the 72nd minute after the Uzbek goalkeeper Usmonov Doniyorjon had punched away a shot from Ahmed Ali. "This was not just my individual effort - the whole team has contributed to this award," added Khalil, who plays for Al Ahli in the local league and is the brother of national striker Faisal Khalil. "I won this award because they helped me to score and I dedicate our historic achievement to all the UAE Sheikhs and people who were behind us." The UAE won all their six matches in the tournament, scoring 12 goals and conceding just three. These statistics, according to Mahdi Ali, are testimony that his side were the best team in fray by far. "We have won the title, the MVP and Top scorer awards, and we have the best defence and the best attack," said Ali, the former Al Ahli striker who replaced the Tunisian Khaled bin Yehya as the UAE coach just days before the tournament. "We were the best team in the tournament and I am really proud of my players, who produced impressive results by winning all their matches in the competition. This is a great achievement for UAE." The captain of the side, Hamdan al Kamali added: "We came here to win the tournament and not just qualify for the World Cup. This is a dream come true for us and I hope we will continue on this patch of success in the coming years. "We deserved to win the title for all the pain and sufferings we have gone through." Mohammed Fawzi, the midfield enforcer, dedicated the victory to all the football fans of the Arab world. We are very pleased because we have lived up to the responsibility and trust bestowed on us," he said. "This cup is a gift to the people of the UAE, the Gulf and the whole Arab world, who have supported us right through. "Our win is a true reflection of the development in UAE football and God willing we will continue our march towards bigger success." arizvi@thenational.ae