UAE score after 14 seconds, beat Bahrain 2-1
The UAE top the pool and will qualify for the last eight for only the third time if Iran avoid defeat against Qatar
Ali Ahmed Mabkhout needed just 14 seconds to put the United Arab Emirates ahead as they went on to claim a 2-1 victory over Bahrain on Thursday to move to the brink of a rare Asian Cup quarter-finals appearance.
With the Group C encounter meandering towards a 1-1 draw, Bahraini captain Mohamed Hasan deflected a 73rd minute free-kick from Amer Abdulrahman into his own net to hand the UAE a second Gulf derby victory in Canberra following their opening 4-1 win over Qatar.
The UAE top the pool and will qualify for the last eight for only the third time, and first since 1996, if Iran avoid defeat against Qatar in Sydney later on Thursday.
The Emiratis again looked most dangerous going forward, with their attacking quartet needing a matter of seconds to slice through a leaky Bahraini backline.
A neat lofted ball by Omar Abulrahman over the head of Bahraini defender Mohamed Duaij allowed Mabkhout to steal in and finish low under goalkeeper Sayed Mohamed Abbas to notch one of the fastest goals ever scored in the Asian Cup.
Mabkhout’s third goal of the tournament owed much to some careless defending by fullback Abdulla Omar, who dallied and gave away possession instead of just clearing his lines.
The UAE came close to adding a second in the 16th minute when some trickery down the right by Mohamed Abdulrahman led to a cross for Ahmed Khalil but the striker could only cannon a shot against the post.
While the UAE attack were purring, their defence lacked the same dominance and struggled to contain the impressive Jaycee John Okwunwanne, who was causing numerous problems in an entertaining first half.
The Nigerian-born striker headed the Bahrainis level in the 26th minute, rising above Hamdan Al-Kamali to meet Faouzi Aaish’s inswinging corner.
Okwunwanne came close to adding a second in the 29th minute when a Bahraini counter led to Rashed Al Hooti crossing from the left but the striker’s header was pushed behind by Majed Naser in the UAE goal.
Al Hooti was one of four changes made by Bahrain coach Marjan Eid as they looked to bounce back from an opening 2-0 loss to Iran and keep alive their quarter-final hopes, which now hang by a thread.
Defensive issues remained for the Bahrainis, though, with a mazy run by Omar Abdulrahman setting up Mabkhout but his 33rd minute effort was cleared off the line.
Sadly, the second period fizzled out as the sun set in Canberra, with both sides sitting deeper.
Omar Abulrahman’s curling free kick just skimmed the top of the crossbar in the best chance of the half minutes before Hasan’s unfortunate own goal decided the contest.
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