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Al Ain: A late penalty from Ahmad Al Hashmi handed the UAE a 1-0 win over Lebanon in their second Group D AFC Under-23 Championship qualifier at the Tahnoun Bin Mohammad Stadium in Al Ain on Monday.

The result sees the UAE stay top of the group level on six points with Uzbekistan but ahead on goal difference after The Whites opened with a 5-0 win over Nepal on Saturday.

Uzbekistan, who opened their account with a 3-1 win over Lebanon on Saturday, followed it up with a 2-0 win over Nepal earlier on Monday.

This now means the UAE’s final group game against Uzbekistan on Wednesday will prove pivotal when it comes to the all important first and second placings.

Both of the UAE’s best first half chances came from Majid Ebrahim. First, on the quarter of an hour mark, after a one-two into the box from Ebrahim off Khalid Bawazir was cleared before Ebrahim and Ahmad Al Hashmi could get to it, by Lebanon defender Khalil Khamis. And then when Ebrahim headed just over from Bawazir’s free-kick, five minutes before the break.

In between, Lebanon had a free-kick from Hussain Monzer which sailed just over the bar on the half hour.

The UAE applied more pressure in the second half and just after the hour, Ali Al Yahyaee curled wide and Al Hashmi hit straight at the keeper in a one-on-one.

Calls for a penalty, when Al Hashmi was brought down by Lebanon’s Khaled Ali after a run into the box, went unanswered on 75 minutes.But 10 minutes later, Al Yahyaee was brought down by Khaled Ali for Al Hashmi to spare the blushes from the spot, placing his penalty just left of keeper Mostafa Matar.  

Lebanon coach Milic Curcic

“I’m satisfied with the defence in the first half but you can’t play defensively for 90 minutes, you need to pass to the sides and quickly counter. My players don’t believe in themselves or have confidence going forward. I believe in them but I don’t know why they are so afraid, maybe it’s because this was our last chance to go to China and it was too much pressure for them.

“We have problems with scoring because my main striker hasn’t played for six or seven months and has spent the last three months without training. It’s very difficult. We need our players to play every week at their clubs and train properly. I gave chances to the strikers and it’s still the same, and now it’s too late."

UAE coach Hassan Al Abdouli

“We were expecting a difficult match for several reasons; the players exerted themselves in the last match and you have to take into consideration the weather; Lebanon also play very defensively and my players were distracted by the Uzbekistan-Nepal result, so they lost focus due to a lack of experience. These aren’t excuses, but we did our best given the circumstances.

“The Uzbekistan team exerted themselves a lot in their game and I noticed a lot of their players today had also played the first match so they were so tired, they had not been given a break. They need to beat us by a big difference of goals. We have a medical team that deals with issues of tiredness and the players are committed to recovery and sleep. We already know Uzbekistan, we’ve seen them many times and know their style so we will set a plan for them.” 

Uzbekistan were made to work for a 2-0 win over Nepal in their second Group D AFC Under-23 Championship qualifier at the Tahnoun Bin Mohammad Stadium in Al Ain.

Dostonbuk Tursonov put the White Wolves in front on 21 minutes before Azizjon Ganiev got a second 10 minutes before time to register Uzbekistan’s second victory in the group after opening with a 3-1 win over Lebanon on Saturday.

It was a much improved performance from Nepal, who blamed the heat after their opening 5-0 defeat to the UAE on Saturday.

Ironically, it rained in the desert just before kick-off to give the well-supported Gorkhalis a slight reprieve in temperature but that didn’t seem to help Uzbekistan, who looked out of sorts despite the drop in mercury.  

Uzbekistan’s Zabikhillo Urinboev had two chances to put the White Wolves in front early on, but shot wide and missed an open goal after successfully getting onto the end of crosses inside the first quarter.

Their luck changed on 21 minutes, however, when Tursunov headed in Javokhir Sidikov’s cross for the opener.

Nepal never looked capable of scoring bar an advantageous overhead kick from Anjan Bista just before half-time, which went wide. But they did control large swathes of play after conceding the opener and defended admirably in the face of inevitable Uzbek counter-attacks - much to the delight of their fans, who made up the majority of the 1,825 in attendance.

Urinboev again headed wide from a cross before the hour to round off a disappointing night in front of goal. But he made up for it on 80 minutes by supplying the quick one-two that fed Ganiev into play for the second.

Nepal coach Raju Kaji Shakya

“The last match we lost 5-0 to the UAE but today against Uzbekistan there was a little bit of improvement, it was still difficult for us though as Uzbekistan’s players are very tall and physical whereas our players are short and that put us at a disadvantage, there was also a difference in fitness.

“Despite the rain there wasn’t a big difference in heat, it was still hot, the boys did better, it’s just that Uzbekistan are taller and more physical.

“Hopefully we will do better in the next match and fight again, overall I’m happy with the improvement, the last match against UAE was a big problem but today was a little better.”  

 Uzbekistan coach Ravshan Khaydarov

“After the first match when Nepal conceded five goals, they prepared very well for us and defensively they were very good.

“We still controlled the match but couldn’t make the most of our chances. I think the only difference today was good defence and goalkeeping from Nepal. I’m proud for what we showed today but now we analyse our mistakes and prepare for the next game against the UAE."

Photos: United Arab Emirates Football Association