Saleh strikes in stoppage time as UAE edge past Tajikistan
The youngster scores the winner on 94 minutes after Ali Mabkhout's brace
(Goals: Ali Mabkhout 29, 62. Ali Saleh 94)
(Goals: Davrondzhon Ergashev 10, Komron Tursunov 20)
It is his stomping ground and the young Ali Saleh knows it better than anyone else. And the striker made that count, conjuring the winner in stoppage time as the UAE rallied brilliantly from two goals down to get past Tajikistan in an international football friendly in Dubai on Thursday night.
The 20-year-old Saleh, who plies his trade for Al Wasl, scored in the 94th minute after ace Al Jazira marksman Ali Mabkhout’s brace as The Whites nicked a dramatic 3-2 victory at the Zabeel Stadium.
Tajikistan were up and away with a 2-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes, with the goals scored by Davrondzhon Ergashev and Komron Tursunov.
But Mabkhout cancelled both out on 29 and 62 minutes, with the second being a penalty. Saleh, who made the cut into the senior team after coming through the Under-19 ranks, struck the winner.
It was a frenetic opening with both the UAE and Tajikistan trying to get a look in but they were unable to get to the final third.
The UAE had a fair share of the chances but it was Tajikistan who made theirs count. The Whites first attempt came six minutes in when Ali Mabkhout was fouled just outside the box. But the Al Jazira striker’s curling freekick was punched away by goalkeeper Shohrukh Qirghizboev.
Mabkhout was to fluff a great opportunity to put the UAE ahead three minutes later as he fired it just wide of the post.
Abdalla Ramadan came up with a nice move down the left and sent a defence-splitting through to Mabkhout, who raced in and intercepted the ball. With Qirghizboev out of his citadel, Mabkhout had an open goal in front of him but botched it up.
A minute later, at the other end, Tajikistan drew first blood with Davrondzhon Ergashev heading home Ehsoni Panshanbe’s corner.
The UAE responded by building up some moves and forced back-to-back corners but couldn’t find a way through.
The Whites had a chance to go level on 18 minutes after Zoir Dzhuraboev felled Ramadan at the tip of the box. But Fabio de Lima’s left-footed freekick was saved by Qirghizboev. Lima has seemed to have lost his footing as he took the attempt.
And it was a repeat with Tajikistan increasing their lead on a counter move with Komron Tursunov deflecting Iskandar Dzhalilov’s pass into the net on 20 minutes.
The UAE won a freekick again after Ergashev stuck his boot into Ramadan on 25 minutes but Mahmoud Khamis’ threatening freekick was saved by Qirghizboev, who dived to his right. Qirghizboev had a busy night under the bar and pulled off some impressive saves for the visitors.
The UAE got onto the scoresheet four minutes later with Mabkhout making no mistake with the header, tucking it into the left corner of the net after an inch perfect square up from Bandar Al Ahbabi from the right.
Caio then saw his effort from the edge of the box held on by Qirghizboev on 36 minutes.
A UAE counter attack came about following a Tajikistan corner with de Lima, Al Ahbabi and Mabkhout making a run. Lima then passed it to Bandar once they reached the box and the latter tried to set it up for the unmarked Mabkhout. But it was too feeble a shot and was intercepted. De Lima won it back and shot but it just went wide of the post.
And with a minute left in the half, Caio saw his effort palmed away by Qirghizboev after a foray from the left.
Caio had another chance before he was subbed off but blazed it over the crossbar following de Lima’s pass, close to the hour mark.
The UAE then wiped off Tajikistan’s lead after they were awarded a penalty on 62 minutes. Substitute Fawzi was fouled by Dzhuraboev inside the box and Mabkhout stepped up and scored from the spot.
As the clock ticked down, the verdict seemed to be a draw but the UAE applied relentless pressure in the closing stages and it paid off.
Starting with a fine cross from the left by Fawzi, Khalid Bawazir headed it down before Mabkhout got a touch. And Ali Saleh, who was lurking inside the box, sent his left-footed grounder into the right corner of the net, in the 94th minute.
The UAE next take on Bahrain in another international friendly on Monday night.
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