NEWCASTLE, Australia: The United Arab Emirates overcame a 10-man Iraq 3-2 in an action packed Asian Cup third placed playoff on Friday to complete an impressive tournament for Mahdi Ali’s side.
Ahmed Khalil netted twice before Ali Mabkhout converted a second half penalty for his fifth of the tournament to take him top of the scorers’ charts with only Saturday’s final between hosts Australia and South Korea to come in Sydney.
UAE playmaker Omar Abdulrahman was again at the heart of his side’s good play, with two brilliant assists for Khalil, who stepped in as skipper with goalkeeper Majed Naser rested after the 2-0 semi final loss to Australia.
The opener came in the 16th minute when Abdulrahman controlled a long ball from deep and played a one two with Mabkhout before sliding an inviting pass for Khalil to slot home under the onrushing Mohammed Hameed in the Iraq goal.
The neat counter-attack goal had a negative effect on the UAE, who knocked out holders Japan in the last eight, with Iraq taking a grip of the game and the lead just before the halftime break.
Careless defending in the 28th minute allowed fullback Waleed Salim to break into the UAE penalty area and his right foot shot deflected home off Khamis Esmaeel.
The 2007 champions, beaten 2-0 by the Koreans in the semis, had already hit the post via talismanic striker Younis Mahmoud and they deservedly took the lead three minutes before the break.
A powerful drive by Ahmed Yaseen Gheni was parried by debutant UAE keeper Khalid Eisa with Amjed Kalaf on hand to divert home into an unguarded net.
The match in Newcastle, watched by FIFA President Sepp Blatter and AFC head Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, turned on its head, though, early in the second half.
A brilliant lofted ball by Abdulrahman put Khalil clear of the Iraq defense and he shifted past Hameed and slotted a second in the 51st minute to tie the game at 2-2.
A sloppy clearance from the keeper four minutes later went straight to Mabkhout, who was bundled over by defender Ahmed Ibrahim in the penalty area.
The Iraq centreback was rightly sent off as last man with Mabkhout stepping up to roll in the spot kick.
The UAE, Asian Cup runners-up in 1990, failed to press home the numerical advantage with Iraq threatening an equalizer as the Emiratis sat deeper.