Mahdi Ali has lofty ambitions of taking the UAE as one of the top four teams in Asia after his team book their passage to Australia with 100 per cent winning record by defeating Hong Kong, writes Amith Passela.
UAE thrash Hong Kong to punch their ticket for 2015 Asian Cup
UAE 4 Hong Kong 0
UAE: Saleh 27’, Abbas 40’, Abdulrahman 80’, Al Hamadi 88’
Man of the match: Omar Abdulrahman (UAE)
ABU DHABI // Mahdi Ali has set his long-term objective in taking the UAE into the top four teams in Asia after his team booked their passage to Australia with two games remaining in 2015 Asian Cup qualifying.
They defeated Hong Kong 4-0 to take their tally to 12 points from four games in the Group E on Friday night at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
They meet Vietnam at the same venue on Tuesday and Uzbekistan away on March 5, but Mahdi Ali plans to use those games to provide playing opportunities for his reserve players.
“We want to build a team for the future and our objective would be to be among the top four in Asia,” the Emirati said.
“Working on those lines we may use these games to provide more playing opportunities for those who haven’t got to play many games in these qualifiers.
“I have 24 players and they have all played exceptionally well whenever they have been given the task. They have given the coach a very hard time to select the line-up in every game, which I believe is good sign regardless who is playing as long as we achieve good results.
“We had a problem sometime back when we couldn’t score and as a result we couldn’t win matches.
“That has changed. The forwards are now doing their job of getting the ball to the back of the net. For me, scoring goals is a collective effort, though, and it really doesn’t matter who does the job.”
The result extended Mahdi Ali’s unbeaten record to 18 since a defeat to Japan in a friendly in his second game in charge after he was appointed the senior national team coach in August last year.
Salem Saleh broke the Hong Kong defence and Walid Abbas doubled it for a 2-0 lead at half time.
Omar Abdulrahman added a third with a crisp left-footer and the substitute Ismail Al Hammadi completed the round with a glancing header off a corner to send the 10,781 home crowd home happy.
Hong Kong, beaten by the same margin last month, stuck to their plan of defending, but a surging UAE attack augured an early goal, and Abdulrahman made the pass that led to it. His through pass reached Ismail Matar, and the captain crossed it to his Al Wahda teammate Saleh, who tapped it into the net.
Walid Abbas’s sharp volley hit the far post and caromed to the back of the net for a 2-0 advantage at intermission.
Kim Pan-gon, the Hong Kong coach, said he was impressed by the UAE and conceded his side were beaten by a superior team.
“We tried our best but failed to come out with the desired result. In an away game we didn’t want to play an attacking game but play for a point,” the Korean said. “There was nothing wrong in our game but we were beaten by a better team. The UAE are playing at a different level than us. We can only take the experience and work harder for the next game.
Hong Kong meet Uzbekistan at home on Tuesday and Kim said they are still hopeful of qualifying behind the UAE as the second team in the group.
Bahrain top Malaysia and advance to Australia
Bahrain secured their place at the 2015 Asian Cup alongside the UAE on Friday night with 1-0 victory over Malaysia at the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa.
Ismail Abdulatif got the decisive touch in the 72nd minute to book Bahrain’s place in Australia.
They are guaranteed to finish among the top two places in Group D, with two matches remaining.
Iran on top of Group B while Saudi Arabia, China and Syria post wins
Iran are all but assured of their place in the finals thanks to a 3-0 away win over Thailand. Askan Dejagah, Reza Ghoochannejhad and Alireza Jahanbakhsh all got on the score sheet to put Iran top of Group B on 10 points, with Kuwait on six and Lebanon in third on five, after they drew 0-0 in Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia booked their place in Australia 2015 after Friday night’s 2-1 victory over Iraq in Group C, giving them four wins out of four.
Second-placed China won 1-0 over Indonesia. In Group A, Syria gave themselves as glimmer of hope with a 4-0 victory over Singapore.
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