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Al Ain: The United Arab Emirates thrashed Nepal 5-0 in their opening Group D 2018 AFC Under-23 Championship qualifier at the Tahnoun Bin Mohammad Stadium in Al Ain on Saturday.    

Ahmed Al Hashmi struck twice on eight and 20 minutes before efforts from Mohammad Al Akberi (pictured above, left) and Khalid Bawazir (pictured below, centre) on 22 and 33 minutes made it 4-0 at the break. A fifth was then added by Mohamed Al Hammadi on 60 minutes.     

The Whites went ahead from an early penalty after Suhail Saeed was brought down by Gaurab Budhathoki inside the area and Al Hashmi struck top left from the spot.

Al Hashmi added another on 20 minutes, tapping in at the back post from Saeed’s cross, and Mohammad Hasan Al Shamshi made it 3-0 after nodding in Khaled Al Dhanhani’s cross just two minutes later.

A second penalty, just after the half hour when Dinesh Rajbanshi handled inside the box, saw Bawazir slot bottom left from the spot for a fourth before half-time.

Majid Ebrahim struck just wide of the post after the interval as the UAE went in search of more, and they didn’t have to wait long as Al Hammadi’s diving header to get onto the end of Al Akberi’s cross made it 5-0 on the hour.

Nepal had one reason to cheer on 71 minutes when Suman Lama appeared to score - much to the jubilation of their travelling fans, who made up the majority of the 5,423 attendance - but it was ruled offside.

UAE head coach Hassan Al Abdooli
"We thank God for this great and significant victory. The players were well prepared. We shouldn’t exaggerate with this result because it wasn’t against one of the strongest sides, but we made a plan for victory and achieved it.​
“We played at home but the Nepal fans were more than the UAE fans, we tried to make this to our advantage and as you saw despite Nepal fans occupying half the stands, we exerted more pressure and controlled the match. We are hoping for the fans to give us the feeling they are standing next to us in the next match against Lebanon.”  

Nepal head coach Raju Kaji Shakya
“The boys didn’t play so bad considering this was the first match. The UAE are a good team and we made a mistake with the two penalties. They didn’t know how to manage the UAE because they are a very good side playing at home and considering the heat as well. The weather is 40 degrees Celsius here and it is rainy season in Nepal. That’s why we lost the game, the UAE are also a very strong and physically strong side."

Uzbekistan 3-1 Lebanon

Uzbekistan nestled into second in Group D of AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers with a comfortable 3-1 win over Lebanon at the Tahnoun Bin Mohammad Stadium in Al Ain on Saturday.

Khalil Khamis’ own goal put the White Wolves ahead on 20 minutes before a brace from Bobir Abdixolikov on 30 and 39 minutes had Uzbekistan 3-0 up at half-time.

Lebanon clawed one back before the hour through Hassan Hammoud, but under sweltering conditions The Cedars couldn’t restore the deficit.  

The result followed the UAE’s earlier 5-0 routing of Nepal at the same venue, which saw the hosts top the group after the first round of matches, with Uzbekistan second, Lebanon third and Nepal fourth.  

Uzbekistan’s Jasurbek Yakhshiboev hit the crossbar with a curling effort launched from outside the area on 14 minutes to send Lebanon an early warning, which they didn’t heed.

A similar Yakhshiboev cross was headed in by Khamis six minutes later as an own goal by Lebanon.

Abdixolikov ran onto Azizjon Ganiev’s through ball and drove his effort low into the left corner on the half hour.

Abdixolikov then chested down Javokhir Sidikov’s long ball forward, dragging the ball back and rounding his retreating marker, before drilling it bottom left for a third – and his second - on 39 minutes.

Lebanon pulled one back from the penalty spot on 57 minutes, when Abbosjon Otakhonov was adjudged to have shoved Khamis in the box. Hussein Zein saw his spot kick tipped onto the post by keeper Dilshod Khamraev, before Hammoud followed up to nick a consolation from the rebound. 

Uzbekistan head coach Ravshan Khaydarov
“I would like to thank my players for today’s game, it was an important start to get three points and everyone followed my instruction, so I’m grateful. It was a game of two halves, the first half we controlled and in the second half we lost concentration and conceded. We tried to counter but it’s normal to have two different halves.
“You can say this group is between Uzbekistan and UAE, but we don’t think like that, now we just think about the next game against Nepal. It will not be easy because this is a tournament and Nepal will also try to do their best against us. Each game is important to us, we treat it as a cup final and try to concentrate on each game individually. For these next two games we will be very serious and concentrated.”

Lebanon head coach Milic Curcic
“We have had a very short time together to prepare, but we’re trying. I’m surprised by the first half, maybe my players were afraid, I don’t know what happened but the first half was very bad and the in the second half we corrected it. I don’t know what happened but we will make analysis and try to do our best in the next two games.
“Congratulations to Uzbekistan, they are a very good team and we knew about their and the UAE’s level coming here. We now have short time to prepare for the next game and we see that UAE are almost at the same level as Uzbekistan. Our next match is sure to be a good game and we will see, we will prepare and try to do our best and in football you never know.”

Photos: United Arab Emirates Football Association