UAE into the AFC Asian Cup 2019 semis after beating Australia 1-0
Ali Mabkhout was once again on target as the UAE beat Australia 1-0 to advance into the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Friday.
The host nation’s title dreams were kept alive through a united team effort as the UAE bulwark withstood Australian onslaught and Mabkhout, the soloist, created an opportunity to net his fourth goal of the tournament.
Plaudits must also go to Italian tactician Alberto Zaccheroni, who once again picked a winning formation. The UAE without injured Khalifa Mubarak and Khamis Esmaeel out with suspension added Walid Abbas to the defense platoon. With Ali Hassan, Fares Juma, Ismail Ahmed, Mohamed Ahmad and Bandar Mohamed in the backline the idea was clear – frustrate the ‘Socceroos’ and hit back on counter-attack.
As the clock ticked by Bandar played more like a floater and along with Ismail Al Hammadi fed crosses to Mabkhout inside the Australian box but Al Jazira talisman missed clear opportunities to head home an opening goal.
Towards the end of the half, Australia pushed men forward and dominated. Giannou and Maclaren had chances but were well bottled by the ‘Whites’. And just before the break, Mabkhout failed to net from Matar’s cross from the right.
Soon after the restart, Matar was replaced by Mohammed Abdulrahman and Al Ain midfielder’s inclusion raised the tempo. As the game grew older, more box-to-box forays started. Both teams were desperate but defenders and keepers were resolute. It was evident that the only way a goal would happen was through a slip or an individual brilliance.
In 60 minutes, Ismail Al Hammadi was past number of yellow shirts but lost control and at another end Mathew Leckie netted but was ruled offside. A goal was surely in the air.
And finally, in 68 minutes Mabkhout made amends for all those missed chances. It was a defensive blunder as Australian defender Milos Degenek made a back pass to his keeper Mathew Ryan but Mabkhout stole the ball and scored his ninth of all the Cup tournaments.
Australia introduced their ace striker Awer Mabil and pushed with all might but couldn’t level. And at the end, some 25,000 fans celebrated as player fell spent on the grass. The ‘Whites’ gave everything on the pitch and will now play Qatar in the semifinals at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.