Abu Dhabi: In the absence of his injured namesake Omar Abdul Rahman, Amer Abdul Rahman was the star of the show for the UAE in their 2-1 win over Uzbekistan in Group E of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers on Friday night.
Abdul Rahman supplied two penetrating passes within two minutes for Ahmad Khalil and Ali Mabkhoot to score after 58 and 60 minutes respectively.
The win, the UAE’s second in two games after their 2-1 victory away to Vietnam last month, means Mahdi Ali’s men remain top of Group E in their quest to reach the Australia extravaganza.
In the day’s other game, second-place Hong Kong beat bottom side Vietnam 1-0.
It could have been very different outcome for the UAE against a dangerous Uzbek outfit, for whom Shohruh Gadoev netted in the 15th minute following a defensive mistake.
The home side were lacklustre in the first half, with repeated passing mistakes and a lack of marking in the back, which gave the visitors the early impetus.
Thankfully for the sizeable home support, though, Ali Khaseef, the UAE goalkeeper, was in his usual brilliant form and saved many dangerous efforts for the Uzbeks.
In the second half, the UAE came back strongly and Ali, the head coach, introduced Esmail Mattar to replace Esmail Al Hammadi up front. The veteran captain was soon in the forefront of the action, leading the attack on the Uzbeks’ goal.
The UAE’s pressure paid dividends when Khalil’s free-kick, which was blocked by the visiting defenders, fell to Abdul Rahman, who sent a curling ball behind the defence for Khalil to slot home a first-time volley for the equaliser.
Then, only two minutes later, Abdul Rahman provided a piercing long pass to Mabkhoot, who galloped clear and dinked a deft finish over the Uzbek goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov for the winner.
But the visitors were not finished yet and had chances to grab an equaliser, but again Khaseef came to the rescue with some fine saves.
“We knew that the Uzbeks would press in the closing minutes, capitalising on their superior physical strength,” Khassef said after the match. “But our defenders and midfielders retreated to defend and we succeeded in keeping them at bay.”