x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Unfit UAE shocked in Beirut

Srecko Katanec critical of the team's durability after a 3-1 defeat at the hands of lowly Lebanon in the World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night.

UAE, in white, had a good start to the game but struggled for the remainder of it.
UAE, in white, had a good start to the game but struggled for the remainder of it.

BEIRUT // Srecko Katanec's last game as coach of the national team will not be one he nor any UAE supporters will remember fondly.

Little Lebanon, which did not win a single match in 2010 and ranks hardly above a semi-pro squad, shocked the UAE 3-1 before 8,000 rapturous fans here, dropping the UAE to the bottom of Group B.

After scoring the opening goal on the bumpy pitch, a header by Mahmoud Khamis in the 15th minute, the UAE ceded control of the match to Lebanon for the next hour.

Khalid Sabeel's foray up the right flank yielded the foul that preceded the first UAE goal. Subait Khater put it back in play from about 35 yards, on the right, and he curled it short and into the middle of the box, where Khamis met it with a flick of his head, floating the ball into the upper-right corner of the net.

Lebanon had the best of the game for the final 20 minutes of the first, and that plus a 1-1 score line perhaps explained the trip from the stands and into the clubhouse by Mohammed Khalfan Al Rumaithi, the president of the Football Association.

Things were to get worse. The porous back line for the UAE repeatedly was opened up, and in the 52nd minute Ghaddar crossed to Akram Moghrabi, who banged in a goal from short range as the UAE defence scrambled to catch up. The lead became a stunning 3-1 in the 85th minute when Roda Antar scored after another breakdown by the UAE, who were pushing forward to try to score the equaliser.

"We gave them everything," Katanec said. "The penalty, the first goal."

Katanec again rued the physical condition of his side, saying that several key players, including "Ahmed Khalil, our only striker", were not prepared to play 90 minutes effectively after a three-week period of inactivity between national-team duties.

He said that the side that elminated India 5-2 on aggregate in the previous round of AFC qualifying came back from a three-week break looking nothing like they had. Asked Katanec: "My players go home and sleep for Ramadan, and they do not train, and what can I do?"

"We should have had three goals in the first 20 minutes," he said. "After that, as you could see, we are not physically able to keep up the pace of the game."

poberjuerge@thenational.ae


””Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Paul Oberjeurge on @PaulOberjuerge