UAE thrash Indonesia 5-0 to keep Fifa World Cup hopes alive
Ali Mabhkout is now the second highest goal-scorer behind Cristiano Ronaldo among active players
It was one more night of World Cup qualifiers. And it was one more night of Ali Mabkhout magic as the prolific striker played his part beautifully in the UAE’s third straight victory since the resumption of the Group G Asian World Cup qualifying campaign.
With two goals in the resounding 5-0 win over Indonesia on Friday, Ali Mabkhout eclipsed Indian captain Sunil Chhetri to become the second highest goal scorer in international behind Cristiano Ronaldo among active players.
The Al Jazira star has now 75 goals from 91 matches, but the Friday night show didn’t belong to him alone.
Just like the 4-0 win over Malaysia on June 3 as well as the 3-1 victory over Thailand four days later, the Brazil-born Fabio Lima was in the thick of things again, scoring from a couple of wonderful headers.
There was time for some more fun as second half substitute Sebastián Tagliabúe scored in the 86th minute, three minutes after replacing Ali Mabkhout as the UAE earned a shot at reaching the final round of the qualifying campaign.
And a campaign that seemed to be spiralling out of control before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the qualifying rounds, has now been revived in style.
The victory over the basement dwellers — Indonesia — at the Zabeel Stadium means Bert van Marwijk’s team’s destiny is now in their own hands, having jumped from fourth place in Group G to the second spot.
A victory against Vietnam, which overcame Malaysia 2-1 in the other game in Dubai on Friday, in their next game on June 15 will earn the UAE a ticket to final round of qualifiers as the winners of Group G.
But even a defeat or a draw against the skillful Vietnam can still send the UAE to the next round as one of the four best second-placed teams across eights groups in Asia.
The form they have shown on home turf since the qualifiers resumed on June 3 deserves to be applauded.
The speed of their counterattacks can leave the best of the Asian teams gasping for breath. And the flair in their attack, when they play the one-twos in the final third would even draw an applause from the admirers of Pep Guardiola’s philosophy of football.
Having tormented Malaysia and Thailand in the previous games, the UAE put the Indonesians to the sword with their skills and range of passing.
And it was Mabkhout that opened the UAE account with an opportunistic strike in the 22nd minute.
After a flowing move, Mabkhout’s short pass from the edge of the box found Khalfan Mubarak Al Rezzy who advanced to the goal, dodging two defenders before unleashing a shot.
The Indonesian goalkeeper managed to put his body to the ball, but Mabkhout was quick to latch on to the rebound the put the home team ahead.
Six minutes later, Fabio Lima jumped higher than his marker inside the Indonesian box to head home from Mahmoud Khamis Alhammadi’s cross from the left.
Indonesia missed a glorious opportunity in the 36th minute when captain Muhammad Rafli
Evan Dimas’ weak penalty was saved by the UAE goalkeeper.
The home team went into the half-time with a comfortable 2-0 lead and retuned from the tunnel with aggressive intent as another flowing move resulted in a penalty, which was converted expertly by Mabkhout to take his international goals tally to 75.
Six minutes later, Lima scored from his second header of the night after another exquisite cross from Mahmoud Khamis Alhammadi.
Tagliabúe then put the cherry on the cake in the 86th minute with a crisp right-footer from inside the box to give the UAE their second straight 5-0 win over the Indonesians in the Group G campaign, with their first coming in October, 2019.