Abu Dhabi: A solitary goal by Ali Mabkhout allowed the UAE to bounce back from their recent setback against Haiti to beat Uzbekistan 1-0 and registered their first win under Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday.
Unlike the previous outing, where they took time to get their combination right, the hosts were on the task at hand right from the start. They conducted a series of raids and kept up the pressure to be rewarded soon after the first quarter.
Amer Abdul Rahman’s measured through from a Mahmoud Khamis pass found Mabkhout, who timed his run to perfection before dribbling past onrushing Uzbek custodian Ignatiy Nesterov before slotting it home with a left-footed effort.
Trailing by a goal, the visitors pressed but were well kept at bay by a resilient UAE defence. Just before the breather, Uzbekistan had a chance to draw level when a header from Akmal Shorakhmedov found Marat Bikmaev lurking inside the box. The latter, though had an open goal in front, failed to connect it well.
Immediately after the change of ends, Bikmaev had another opportunity to draw level. This time he managed to unleash power-packed left-footer on the turn after being fed by Bakhrom Abdulrakhimov but that effort ended up on the side netting.
In the 62nd minute, a long ranger from Mabkhout was goal bound but an alert Nesterov was equally up for the challenge and made a diving save to his left. UAE star mid-fielder Omar Abdul Rahman as usual made his presence felt despite being tightly marked. He created few opportunities but wasn’t that effective and was replaced in the 70th minute.
Mohammad Fawzi also had an opportunity to widen the lead in the 72nd minute but his grounder lacked power to beat Nestrov. It was clearly not Bikmaev’s day, as in the 83rd minute he was again set with a fine cross by Shukhrat Mukhammadiev but the former again could not make a neat connection.
Then UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa tipped over a free-kick out from Azizjon Ganiev to deny the visitors again. A powerful header from Kozak Vladimir sailed inches over the framework in the dying minutes as the hosts were soaking all the pressure to keep their slender lead intact till the final whistle.
“The spirit is back and we are trying to implement what Zaccheroni expects us to do. That’s what we did today and will be looking to do to build a strong team for future,” said Kamis after the match.