Braces by Ahmed Khalil and Ali Ahmed Mabkhout sealed an emphatic 4-1 win for the UAE over Qatar in Group C’s opening game of the 2015 Asian Cup.
The all-Gulf affair took place at Canberra Stadium, with AFC President Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and a large entourage of important West Asian dignitaries joining a crowd of 5,513 fans.
The game started in an open and swaying fashion, with the first good chance of the game coming from Ahmed Khalil’s run behind the defence on a counter attack. It was sent wide, however, when he lost his balance to take the shot.
Khalfan found the opening goal when the ball bounced high in front of him just at the edge of the box. Bringing the ball down with his chest, he volleyed over the on-rushing Majed Naser in goal with fantastic control.
UAE continued to push forward for a response, with Omar Abdulrahman’s eye for a quick pass kept Qatar on the back foot, also finding space for a header that was saved by quick reflexes of Qasem Burhan. Qatari defender Abdelaziz Hatim later launched the ball low and fast into the side netting from outside the box.
The Emiratis found their equaliser with Omar once again starting the attack, however it was Ahmed Khalil who put his name on the scorers’ list when he the ball into the net from a goal line clearance after his own header.
With the first half ending in a deadlock, the Emiratis came out in the second half to show the defending Gulf Cup of Nations winners their mettle.
Khalil got his brace from a free kick on the corner of the box following a dubious foul call in the favour of Walid Abbas. The free kick sailed through the bodies inside the penalty area to catch Qasem off guard as crossed the face of the goal and into the net.
Another free kick was won by UAE minutes later, with Qasem spilling the shot by Khamis Esmaeel into the path of Ali Ahmed Mabkhout, who made no mistake with his one-on-one effort.
With a minute remaining on the clock Mabkhout completed a brace of his own, finishing a series of linking passes with Hamdan Al Kamali to finish the second half rout and end the game with a 4-1 win and maximum points.
The result gives UAE temporary first place in Group C, with Iran and Bahrain set to face off in Melbourne later on Sunday night.