The UAE will be working hard to fix the mistakes that led to defeat against Saudi Arabia in time for tonight’s third-place play-off, according to coach Mahdi Ali.
A lack of pressure at the back and the glaring absence of defensive midfielder Khamis Esmail through suspension contributed to an error-strewn semi-final display from the holders on Sunday.
Nasser Al Shamrani and Nawaf Al Abid both punished failures in concentration from centre-back Mohamed Ahmed and right-back Abdelaziz Sanqour to put the hosts 2-0 ahead. Ahmed Khalil’s second-half brace gained creditable parity, only for Salem Al Dawsari to dance through on the edge of the penalty box and fire in a crushing 86th-minute winner.
The heartbreaking loss sees a re-match against Group B opponents Oman at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium tonight, following their 3-1 reversal against Qatar.
Ali has vowed to look to the future in the clash, with one eye projected to his options ahead of January’s Asian Cup.
“They were were mistakes which lead to the defeat and that is my responsibility as the coach, the 49 year old said. “We hope to fix them in the next few days.
“I think you saw our fans cheering the team despite the loss, and even the Saudi fans waited to applaud them, I don’t need to laud these players. We are always looking to bring players in, and now we have 45 days left [before the trip Down Under] and we will see how we can best prepare them.”
The Whites stuttered to a 0-0 draw against Oman when they met in the previous round. Paul Le Guen’s men have impressed throughout their tenure in Riyadh, gaining a memorable highlight when they thrashed Kuwait 5-0.
Le Guen said: “We are on the right track. We’ve had some quite good games. I won’t give up.
“I think that I know my players better than at the beginning of the competition, but that’s the case for all of the coaches.”
A solid turnout of Emirati supporters made the trip to Riyadh for the last-four clash. Forward Ismail Matar has thanked them for their attendance, expressing regret that they couldn’t reach the final.
“There were opportunities created to make the final, but we were not able to reconcile them,” the Al Wahda star said. “I thank the fans for the support they have given us and we are sad because we did not please them with the win.”
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