The UAE secured the second straight win at the FIFA Arab Cup after defeating Mauritania 1-0 in their second Group B at the Stadium 974 Friday. Khalil al-Hamadi's last-gasp goal in the third minute of the injury time put the Whites closer to book their place in the quarter-finals. The victory over Mauritania leaves the UAE on six points and in a comfortable position ahead of their showdown with Tunisia.
In what was the first ever meeting between the two sides, Bert Van Marwijk-coached UAE held an upper hand throughout the match but were defied goals on at least ten occasions by the Africans, who were impressive in defence.
Al-Hamadi, who came in to replace Caio Canedo in the 74th minute, struck the winner in 90+3 minutes as a brilliant performance by Mauritania goalkeeper Mbacke Ndiaye went in vain. UAE started in a dominating fashion keeping control of the ball from the beginning but they were not allowed much space by Mauritania.
Bandar Mohamed created a good opportunity by setting up Canedo but the striker was off target in the 13th minute. The Mauritanians were showing good pace in the counter attacks but were unable to pose much threat to the UAE.
UAE created an opportunity following an attack from right flank but Bandar was blocked by a defender inside the box in the 27th minute. The Van Marwijk-coached side was doing well with their moves but they were lacking execution.
The Emiratis were controlling the match with an 80% of ball possession at the half-hour mark, yet they had had no answers for solid defending by Mauritania. But they increased their attacks making goalkeeper Ndiaye a busy man.
The Mauritanian goalkeeper did well to punch the ball away in a dangerous free kick in the 33rd minute. Ndiaye thwarted another attack with a diving clearance in an attack led by Canedo before stopping a fiery shot from Ali Saleh in the last minute of the first half.
The 26-year-old blocked another strike from Ali Ahmed Mabkhout in the stoppage time as Mauritania continued to deny the UAE goal till the half-time whistle. UAE came back from the break, desperate for goals but didn’t get the breakthrough despite numerous attacks.
A shot by Mabkhout just before the one-hour mark went wide before the Whites launched a barrage of attacks. Al-Wasl forward Ali Saleh was finally able to beat a diving Ndiaye with a superb overhead kick, what could have been the goal of the tournament.
However, the referee disallowed the goal, declaring Mabkhout was off side during the move following the VAR consultation.
Three minutes before time, Mauritania attacked through Oumar M’bareck, who made a solo run inside the box but Mohamed Omar was there in time to stop the substitute. An appeal for a penalty was turned down by the referee.
The UAE finally received a winner when Tahnoon Alzaabi’s assist took a touch of Mauritania defender Ablaye Sy and found Alhammadi, who put the ball in to ensure coveted three points for the UAE, who will play Tunisia at the Al Thumama Stadium on Monday.