Dubai: Second-half substitute Ali Saleh notched a winner in the fourth minute of added time to help the UAE to a comeback 3-2 win against Tajikistan, while Syria and Bahrain secured wins during international friendlies in the UAE late on Thursday.
This was the first win for the UAE under their new Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto, who was assigned to take over in June. The experienced South American had started his assignment with the UAE with a 2-1 loss to Uzbekistan also in a friendly played in Dubai last month.
The visitors took the lead after just nine minutes of play when Davron Ergashev headed home a corner past Ali Khasief. The UAE goalkeeper was beaten a second time 10 minutes later as Komron Tursunov connected to a pass from Iskandar Dzhalilov to slot home from close range and make it 2-0 for Tajikistan.
The UAE finally managed to pull one back in the 28th minute when Bandar Al Ahbabi sent a cross from the left, and the instinctive Ali Mabkhout headed home.
The home side continued pressing for an equaliser, but were denied by the sturdy defence of the visitors to go in at the break 2-1 in arrears. But as the second half progressed, the UAE finally got their chance to draw level in the 62nd minute when substitute Mohammad Fawzi was fouled inside the area and Mabkhout made no mistake from the spot as he slotted past Shokhrukh Kirgizboev in the Tajikistan goal.
Just when it looked like the encounter would end 2-2, the home team struck the winner with seconds remaining on the clock. It was Al Wasl youngster Saleh, who proved to be the toast of the UAE as he placed the ball to the far left of Kirgizboev from just inside the area to hand Pinto his first win.
The UAE are next scheduled to play Bahrain in their second friendly on October 16. The matches are part of the UAE’s preparations for the remainder of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup Qatar and 2023 AFC Asian Cup China.
The UAE are fourth in Group G with six points after four matches, while Tajikistan are third with seven points from five matches in Group F.
Meanwhile, Bahrain fought back from a goal down to get past Lebanon 3-1 at the friendly played at the Dubai Police Officers Club ground. The win was the second consecutive victory for Helio Sousa’s side, having defeated Tajikistan 1-0 last Saturday, while it was Lebanon’s first defeat under new head coach Jamal Taha.
Syria also ended on the winning side after a second-half goal from Mahmoud Al Mawas was enough to help them to a 1-0 victory over 10-man Uzbekistan at the Khalid Bin Mohammed Stadium in Sharjah. The match was the first official test for Syria under new head coach Nabil Maaloul.
Uzbekistan were reduced to ten men after ten minutes into the match when defender Khojiakbar Alijonov was sent off for a foul on Alaa Dali. Syria then used their one-man advantage to the best and Al Mawas got the match-winner.
Jordan and Iraq played out a goalless draw at The Sevens Stadium, Dubai. Affected by the absence of several players due to injury and being COVID-19 positive, both teams struggled to find their rhythm to finally settle for a draw.
Jordan next play Syria in their second friendly on Tuesday, while Iraq will take on Uzbekistan the same day.
In Sarajevo, an intense second half saw Iran get the better of hosts Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0. Iran continued their fine form as the victory was the second under the tutelage of Croatian head coach Dragan Skocic, having beaten Uzbekistan 2-1 last month in Tashkent.
Bosnia and Herzegovina 0 Iran 2
Syria 1 Uzbekistan 0
Jordan 0 Iraq 0
UAE 3 Tajikistan 2
Bahrain 3 Lebanon 1