Al Ain: UAE trounced Lebanon 6-2 late on Sunday night at Khalifa Stadium in Al Ain as they gear up for the World Cup qualifier against India on Saturday.
The match was almost a one-sided affair with the UAE dominating possession while the Lebanese were content on defending, which raised questions about the benefits of the game just six days before their official encounter with the Indians.
UAE head coach Srecko Katanec started with Ali Khaseef in goal, Yousuf Al Jaber, Waleed Abbass, Hamdan Al Kamali and Mohammad Ahmad in defence. Amer Abdul Rahman and Amer Mubarak Ganim performed as pivots while Mohammad Al Shehhi, Ali Al Waheebi and Esmail Al Hammadi played behind Ahmad Khalil, the centre forward.
Khalil was in a class of his own showing clinical finishing by scoring a hat-trick, while Al Shehhi added one and Al Kamali and Theyab Awana converted spot kicks to complete the damage.
Awana's penalty kick, though spectacular, showed great carelessness and lack of respect from the player who was brought in only five minutes earlier. He advanced to take the kick and turned his back to the Lebanese custodian and backheeled the ball.
Katanec substituted him directly, sending a clear message to his players of the importance of respecting opponents.
After leading 5-2 only 11 minutes into the second half, Katanec gave chances to all his reserve players.
Mahmoud Al Ali, the only Lebanese striker, gave the UAE's technical staff something to worry about as he twice succeeded in capitalising on defensive blunders to score two.
Katanec said he was happy with the six goals, but worried about the defensive mistakes.
"The big score is good for the morale of the players who have a difficult match against India on Saturday which they should win with a big score to secure the result before going to Delhi," he said.
"They have to give the match all their focus and concentration to achieve that objective. Tonight [Sunday night] we lost concentration twice and conceded two goals. I am not happy with that."
"Of course, the match against India will be totally different because it is an official encounter and they also need to achieve a good result to help them promote to the second round of the qualifiers. I am happy with what we achieved in our training camp in Austria and I am sure that the team is ready for the official match."
Katanec also talked about the backheel penalty which Awana converted and his decision to pull him out after only five minutes of play.
"Theyab is a young player and lacks experience and he has to learn how to respect the opponents."
Meanwhile, Emile Rustom, the head coach of Lebanon, said: "We benefited from the match. There is a big difference between the two teams and we lack the facilities available to the UAE team in addition to the fact that my team missed the services of a number of key players who did not come with us because of different reasons."
The match was held with only a handful of local fans attending, the Lebanese supporters were more in numbers.
UAE face India on July 23 and 28.
I won't let my coach down
UAE Head coach Srecko Katanec surprised almost everyone by selecting Amer Mubarak Ganim to join the UAE's training camp in Austria because the player was away from competitive matches for a long time having missed all the matches of the UFL second round following a contract dispute with his club Al Nasr.
Katanec went further and selected the player to feature in the match against Lebanon and Ganim shined after creating two goals for Ahmad Khalil and Mohammad Al Shehhi, in addition to policing the midfield.
Ganim expressed his gratitude to Katanec.
"I am grateful for the coach for his confidence in me. I hope I did not let him down and I was successful in justifying his trust." Ganim told Gulf News after the match.
"It is true that I did not play for Al Nasr in the second round of the UFL but I kept training every day and was in top shape physically in addition to the fact that I did my best when I joined the national team in their training camp in Austria."
Ganim expressed his confidence that the UAE will win promotion to the second round of the qualifiers.