UAE beat Vietnam in crucial clash to keep World Cup hopes alive
The UAE continued their winning streak and notched up the fourth straight win with a 3-2 victory over Vietnam in their joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifier match on Tuesday.
With the victory, the UAE kept their World Cup dream alive and booked their berth in the final and the third round of the qualifiers.
Ali Hassan Salmeen, Ali Mabkhout and Mahmoud Khamis were on the target as the UAE held their nerve to beat Vietnam in the must-win game. The UAE finished the second round on the top of their group with 18 points.
After a disappointing first leg, which left them on the verge of the ejection, a resilient UAE put up a resurgent show to take all 12 points up for grabs in the return leg of the qualifiers and finished their campaign on a high with a place guaranteed in the next round.
The UAE were playing a firebrand football from the beginning. They seemed to be working on the theory of ‘offence is the best defence.’
The hosts kept on attacking through their frontline strikers of Mabkhout, Fabio Lima and Mohammed Bandar Al Ahbabi.
But they were frustrated by the tight defence of the visitors, who seemed more interested in defending rather scoring and taking lead.
It was until the half-hour mark, the UAE were made to sweat in the sweltering heat by Vietnam before Salmeen broke the deadlock to give them a much-needed breakthrough.
Salmeen tapped a pass from Bandar and sent it right across into the net as a diving Vietnam goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong was beaten by the pace of the strike and failed stop the shot.
The first goal not only boosted the morale of the team but also opened the floodgates for the UAE, who added one more to their tally eight minutes later.
This time it was their star striker Mabkhout, who found the back of the net to put them 2-0 ahead. He slotted the second one off a penalty kick by team-mate Khalil Ibrahim as the Vietnam goalkeeper Tan Truong was found dumbstruck.
Soon after the half-time, the UAE struck again to extend their lead to 3-0. Lima headed a cross from Bandar but Vietnam goalkeeper managed to get his hands on the ball, before a lurking Khamis exploited the chance and put the ball into the net with a fine header as the UAE made it 3-0 in the 51st minute.
After the third strike, picture of the outcome became more or less apparent and the UAE looked set to be heading toward their destination.
The Vietnam’s players tried hard to open the account and salvage some pride. But they even failed to pose any threat and could not penetrate the tight defence of the UAE till the 84th minute.
However, Tien Linh pulled one back for the visitors but that was enough to thwart the UAE. In the dying moments, Minh Voung added one more to give the UAE a scare but the final whistle by the referee ended their of any comeback win or a draw. Meanwhile, with the second goal, Mabkhout took his tally of international goals to 76. He consolidated his position as the second-highest scorer in the world among the current lot of footballers.
He is leading Argentine legend Lionel Messi and India’s Sunil Chhetri by three and two goals respectively.
Earlier, the UAE went into the match, knowing very well that anything less than a victory will end their hopes of qualification for the showpiece event.
Vietnam were at the pole position of their group with 17 points while the hosts UAE, who trailed them by two points, on the second spot.
Even a draw would guarantee the visitors a place in the third round while the UAE needed at least a win to progress to the next stage of the tournament.
The winners of all groups and the best four runners-up automatically qualify for the next round of the qualifiers.
The UAE needed to win all four games before the start of the second round of the qualifiers. They notched up three wins on a trot not only to keep their hopes alive but also boosted the chances of booking berth in the third round.