Dubai: Bahrain coach Peter Taylor lavished praise on the UAE ahead of Thursday’s Gulf Cup draw after his side’s 6-2 friendly defeat to the Emiratis at Al Wasl’s Zabeel Stadium on Tuesday.
Ali Mabkhout scored four goals and provided two assists as the UAE twice pegged back the 2013 Gulf Cup hosts in the first half, before racing to a four goal-lead after the interval.
The rout follows the UAE’s 3-0 home win over reigning Gulf Cup champions Kuwait last month, and sends a real statement of intent to the other five nations taking part in the GCC event Manama from January 5-18.
Bahrain and Kuwait are already seeded as hosts and defending champions, atop of two groups of four, which are to be filled in Thursday’s draw with Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen.
“At the moment you’ve got to say the UAE are looking in better condition [than us],” said Taylor. “We conceded too much space and too many goals against a side that keeps the ball very well. The UAE have been together a long time and are a good football team. Because they have possession they get the ball and bodies forward, so they’re dangerous,” Taylor added.
“But what’s more important, to be fantastic now or by the time the Gulf Cup comes along? We’ve still got some players that can come in and improve us. We might have even learnt more than the UAE from this game,” he added.
“At the moment, you would have thought the UAE would finish higher than us [after this result]. But it’s a clever game and you never know what can happen. Playing at home could be a fantastic advantage. Our fans will be up for us getting a result.
“It’s how you react in football and if you feel sorry for yourself there’s a fair chance you’re not going to pick yourself up. You’ve just got to stay determined and react the right way,” said the former caretaker boss of England.
UAE coach Mahdi Ali said: “I think it’s best not to exaggerate this result. Friendly games and official matches are completely different. But I’m happy with these two friendlies [against Kuwait and Bahrain].
“The team took two easy goals, like they did in the last game [against Uzbekistan 2-2 last Friday] as well. We’ll have to work harder to rectify these things in the future. It’s good that it happened in a friendly and we hope it doesn’t happen in the official games.”
Ali went on to praise the UAE’s forward line for scoring 11 goals in his first four friendly games in charge, at a strike rate of 2.75 goals a game. It’s a marked improvement from a side that struggled to find the net in the 2011 Asian Cup and 2014 World Cup qualifiers.