The United Arab Emirates went top of Group A at the Asian Cup with a valuable 2-0 win over India in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Khalfan Mubarak provided the opener in the 41st minute and Ali Ahmed Mabkhout made the points safe, the striker latching onto Ali Hassan Salmin’s direct pass and coolly confirming a result that puts the host nation in pole position to advance.
The scoreline was harsh on India, who twice hit the crossbar after the restart and enjoyed the best of proceedings for long periods.
Stephen Constantine’s side, 4-1 winners over Thailand last weekend, must instead focus on beating bottom-placed Bahrain on Monday if they are to be sure of a place in the next phase.
— #AsianCup2019 (@afcasiancup) January 10, 2019
Sunil Chhetri was the two-goal star of India’s weekend victory and would have made it three in two matches midway through the first half had he not headed straight at Khalid Eisa Bilal from Anirudh Thapa’s cross.
UAE eventually settled into the contest and broke the deadlock four minutes before the break, attacking midfielder Mubarak punishing some indecisive defending by squeezing a shot past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from a narrow angle.
Loose marking at the other end afforded Chhetri a chance to quickly respond, but the 34-year-old guided a tame finish beyond the far post after getting in behind the UAE defence.
India continued to look the more dangerous side after the interval and went within inches of drawing level when Udanta Singh crashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar in the 55th minute.
UAE captain Ismail Al Hamadi later hit the upright with an opportunity to put the result beyond doubt before Mabkhout did just that in the 89th minute
India kept pressing and defender Sandesh Jhingan powered against the bar once more in stoppage time.
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