Football

Socceroos sent packing by UAE

Australia felled by contentious goal as hosts set up semi-final clash with Qatar

ASIAN CUP Q-FINAL
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES AUSTRALIA
1 0
(Ali Mabkhout 68)  

Asian Cup holders Australia slumped out of the tournament on Saturday morning (Jan 26, Singapore time) when a contentious Ali Mabkhout goal earned hosts United Arab Emirates a 1-0 victory and a semi-final meeting with Qatar next week.

Mabkhout struck midway through the second half after Milos Degenek under hit a pass back to goalkeeper Mat Ryan, and the Al Jazira man swooped to round the goalkeeper and slot the ball into an empty net for his ninth goal in two Asian Cup tournaments.

The Australians complained Degenek had been fouled prior to giving away possession by Mohammed Abdulrahman, but Japanese referee Ryuji Sato waved away the protests and the goal stood.

“Milos didn’t get a minute at the World Cup, but he has stepped up at this tournament and done fantastically well,” said Australia coach Graham Arnold.

“Obviously he’s hurting at the moment but I’ll make sure he’s OK.

“He’s a fantastic kid, a fantastic professional and he’s got a long future with the Australian national team.”

Victory means Alberto Zaccheroni’s UAE side will move on to a potentially politically sensitive semi-final against Arabian Gulf neighbours Qatar, who earlier stunned South Korea 1-0.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar in June 2017. The countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.

The UAE’s progress was vindication of Zaccheroni’s decision to make five changes from the side that edged Kyrgyzstan in the previous round, with veteran striker Ismaeil Mattar making his first start of the tournament.

The home team looked comfortable despite the changes and within a minute of kickoff almost took the lead. Ismail Al Hammadi flew through the Australia defence but Ryan was equal to his goal-bound effort.

Al Hammadi threatened again 19 minutes later, with Ryan called into action once more after the winger had stepped inside Australia’s backline.

The Socceroos threatened, too, in an open and entertaining first half.

Trent Sainsbury looped an early header over the bar and Apostolos Giannou forced a save from Khalid Essa five minutes before the break.

Mabkhout, though, should have scored in the dying seconds of the half, only for his close-range header to fizz over the crossbar.

He made amends after halftime when he capitalised on Degenek’s poor pass to give his side the lead.

Australia coach Arnold threw on strikers Awer Mabil and Andrew Nabbout in a last-ditch attempt to take the game to extra time. However, the UAE held firm to avenge their loss to the Socceroos in the semi-finals four years ago in Australia. – REUTERS

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