The UAE were true to their word in their must-win Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifier in Lebanon and produced the goods and three points that coach Bert van Marwijk demanded — just.
Before today, the UAE were languishing in fifth spot in Asian qualifying third round Group A after five games, and without a win. The task was now to muster a bid to reach third spot and go into the final play-off rounds, as Iran and South Korea had already run away with the two automatic qualifying spots in the group. That left Lebanon, Iraq, the UAE and Syria to slug it out for third, with Lebanon two points clear of the UAE in the coveted spot.
Now, after the clash in Saida, things look a lot rosier for Van Marwijk’s men — thanks to a late penalty from Ali Mabkhout and a vital 1-0 win.
Mabkhout’s 85th-minute strike notched up the first, long-awaited win of this stage of the campaign. They were awarded the spot kick when Abbas Asi raised his foot as Sebastian Tagliabue went to head Khalil Ibrahim’s cross from the right and Mabkhout rolled the resulting penalty into the corner after sending Mostafa Matar the wrong way.
The win moves the UAE into third place in the standings with six points from six games, one ahead of Lebanon, and puts their fate back in their own hands.
In Group B, Saudi Arabia moved a step closer to World Cup qualification as Herve Renard’s side defeated Vietnam 1-0 in Hanoi on Tuesday to stay unbeaten in the final phase of Asia’s preliminaries for Qatar 2022.
Saleh Al Shehri’s 31st-minute goal separated the teams and the Saudis sit top of Group B with 16 points from six games. The win moves Saudi Arabia six points clear of the second-placed Australia, who faced China in Sharjah later on Tuesday.