1-0 (62) Adnan Al-Talyani
Time for the decider in Group 3 in the AFC zone, as UAE welcomed leaders Kuwait to Sharjah Stadium. The group winner only would qualify for the final round, and a win would put UAE in the driver’s seat for that, since they were still to play Pakistan away (where they would be big favourites). For Kuwait a draw here would suffice in their final match to qualify for the Final Round.
Kuwait had won the first fixture between the two teams, an entertaining 3-2 win at Kuwait National Stadium (match report to be published on Italia1990.com later).
United Arab Emirates (4-3-3)
|17 Muhsin Musabah||24||Al-Sharjah|
|2 Khalil Ghanim||24||Al Khaleej Club|
|4 Mubarak Ghanim||25||Al Khaleej Club|
|6 Abdulrahman Mohamed||25||Al-Nasr|
|7 Fahad Khamees (c)||27||Al-Wasl|
|8 Khalid Ismail||23||Al-Nasr|
|11 Zuhair Bakheet||sub 42′||21||Al-Wasl|
|14 Nasir Khamees||23||Al-Wasl|
|15 Ibrahim Meer||21||Sharjah SC|
|18 Abdul Razaq||x||x|
|20 Mohamed Obaid||21||x|
|10 Adnan Al-Talyani||on 42′||24||Al Shaab|
|1 Khalid Al-Shemmeri||47′||x||x|
|3 Mahboub Juma’a||33||Al-Salmiya|
|5 Adel Mansour||18′, 85′||x||x|
|6 Wael Suleyman||17′, sub 76′||x||x|
|7 Ali Marwi||19||Al-Salmiya|
|13 Adel Abbas||79′||x||x|
|14 Hamoud Al-Shemmeri||28||Kazma Sporting Club|
|15 Mubarak Al-Essa||x||x|
|12 Abdulaziz Al-Hajeri||sub HT||x||x|
|18 Fahad Al-Sayed||x||x|
|20 Hamad Al-Saleh||x||x|
|10 Nawaf Al-Anezi||on 76′||x||x|
|21 Fahad Marzouq||on HT, 57′||18||x|
The game unfolded much as expected given the premises: UAE dominating possession, Kuwait sitting back and soaking up pressure.
UAE were in need of goals and tried to get tempo on the ball, but relied on a very patient short passing game. The plan seemed to have been to knock the ball around until regista Abdulrahman Mohamed had the necessary space to attempt one of his well-known penetrating passes. And Kuwait’s tactics very much allowed them to do so – the visitors were defending deep and focussed on staying compact, refraining from closing down until UAE had progressed well into their half.
The options in front of Mohamed could however be limited. UAE had a rather narrow attacking set-up, as all three of their forwards occupied the central area and didn’t offer much width. Also Khalid Ismail, who tended to stay on the wide left when UAE were not in possession, immediately motored forward to join the two other forwards in the middle when the team had the ball. Fahad Khamees did at times try to drop a bit deeper to combine (although more often than not denied by a Kuwaiti defender in his heels), while Zuhair Bakhit had a poacher role.
Thus, UAE did seem a bit top heavy at times. Admittedly, the three forwards ensured them plenty of presence in the box once they managed to get into the final third, but on the downside left them with a limited (and congested) number of options when patiently trying to string together their attacking movements. The idea might also have been for the three forwards to occupy the Kuwait defence (forcing their full-backs to tuck in) and create space on the flanks, where width was provided from the two full-backs, Mohamed Obaid og Ibrahim Meer.
However, as Kuwait stayed compact and disciplined, minimizing space between their defence and midfield, the home side’s attempts to involve the two full-backs proved difficult. UAE’s slow approach also helped Kuwait organising their team and get men goalside. Midfielders Abdul Razaq and Nasir Khamees always stayed near to Mohamed to allow him short options, but quite often found themselves in a congested area when trying to play forward passes to the full-backs or attacking trio.
Mohamed thus had the necessary space and time on the ball, but could not always easily work the ball forward.
While some of UAE’s more ambitious play perhaps failed, they did produce a fair amount of goal scoring opportunities in the 1st half.
Nasir Khamees hit the crossbar (after a throw-in) and Ismail almost found an unmarked Bakhit in front of goal with a header (following a corner). There was also a longer attacking sequence where Mohamed managed to get into a more advanced position and whip a ball to the edge of the box and onto the head of Ismail, whose powerful header hit the post.
Precisely the ability of Ismail to win aerial contests was emerging as one of UAE’s main threats, and as the half unfolded, the home team grew more and more interest in playing direct passes from the deep. The Kuwait defence was sitting so deep that they often backed into their own penalty area. Once UAE managed to work the ball into the penalty area, they always seemed to have enough players up front that could cause Kuwait trouble, and midfielder Nasir Khamees did well to offer support and chase loose balls. Long balls seemed to make sense.
Kuwait’s priority here was to prevent UAE from scoring, risking very little going forward.
While they defended in a 4-1-4-1 formation, they did transform into 4-3-3 when in possession of the ball and showed occasional promise when breaking forward. The main attacking outlets for Kuwait were their two wide men, as UAE found it difficult to anticipate whether they would stay wide or go inside once they received the ball. They also happened to receive the ball in 1 v 1 situations on some occasions, and even fancied some running with the ball that UAE not always were fully in control of. While they didn’t create the kind of big chances as the home side did, these occasional bursts gave Kuwait a pause from the sustained pressure.
Such attacks were rare, though, and forward Ali Marwa cut a very lonely figure up front for Kuwait. He spent much of the game hopelessly chasing clearances that were hoofed forward in his direction, with little support behind him, and was rather easily handled by UAE’s two central defenders.
Substitution: Al Talyani on for UAE
In the 42th minute, UAE made an interesting substitution, as they brought Adnan Al-Talyani on for Bakhit.
Bakhit had fell awkwardly in the penalty area after an attempted through ball from Mohamed (the only example of a ball played in behind Kuwait’s defence in the 1st half), and was unable to continue. His impact on the game had been very low until that point; the through ball from Mohamed had perhaps been just the kind of moment that suited his qualities, but he seemed indecisive when the opportunity presented itself and then sustained an injury when tackled.
To the excitement of the home crowd, Al-Talyani – born in Sharjah and the talisman of club side Al-Shaab – entered the field. The excitement was surely not only caused by local pride, but also a feeling that Al-Talyani could provide some creative sparks to the team.
2nd half: Long balls
The pattern of the game stayed much the same after the break: Kuwait content with absorbing the pressure, and UAE dominating.
There was a lot more urgency about the UAE players from the start of the 2nd half, however, and it did seem that they had completely abandoned the patient build-ups, and instead simply opted for the long ball as default. The 1st half had shown that they would struggle with their ambitious plans of finding a way past Kuwait’s block along the ground, but it was somewhat surprising to see them resort to long balls only that soon. 45 minutes of play remained, but judged on UAE’s style of play it already felt more like the final moments of the game.
Thus, it was now defenders Khalil Ghanim and Ghanim Mubarak who were the “maestros” of UAE’s passing game, launching long (and not always accurate) passes from the midway line against Kuwait’s deep defensive line whenever they found the right angle, while the importance of Mohamed diminished – reduced to that of picking up any loose ball in midfield from aerial tussles.
Kuwait on their part saw no need to change things, although they did take off Abdulaziz Al-Hajeri at the interval, replacing him with Fahad Marzouq (not unlikely caused by a knock that Al-Hajeri sustained just before the break.)
1-0: Al Talyani!
UAE finally was paid for their patience when sub Al-Talyani netted the ball home in the 62nd minute.
For once, UAE had found some space in the middle of the park, when Mohamed made a rare surge forward into the opposite half and was allowed to advance further after playing a one-two with Fahad Khamees, who had dropped deep. The move gave Mohamed all the necessary space and time to assess the options in front of him and loft a perfect ball to Ismail in the penalty area – with just the kind of accuracy that had lacked so far in the 2nd half. Once Ismail, like so many times earlier in the afternoon, won the header, the waiting Al-Talyani had little trouble firing the knock-down into the net. 1-0.
The key here was Mohamed being allowed time on the ball deep into Kuwaiti territory. The visitors had been living dangerously with their deep defence, which constantly allowed UAE presence inside the penalty area. Although they had rather comfortably dealt with the direct passing thus far in the 2nd half, a pinpointed pass from Mohamed in an advanced position would always cause them trouble (the sequence leading up the goal was not too dissimilar from one of the above-mentioned opportunities in the 1st half).
Kuwait can’t level the score
Predictably, Kuwait’s answer was to push their team forward in order to find the necessary equalizer. And perhaps just as expected, UAE immediately put away their long ball tactics and reverted to keeping the ball on the ground.
There were also responses from the bench, as Kuwait brought on striker Nawaf Al-Anezi for midfield anchor Wael Suleyman, switching to a 4-4-2 formation. (The choice of Suleyman was perhaps accidental, as he had just picked up a knock and was unable to continue, but it did suit Kuwait’s purposes). UAE however also effectively changed to a 4-4-2, as Ismail dropped back to play on the left of midfield, the same position he anyway had been playing when the team wasn’t in possession of the ball. This meant that there were two 4-4-2s matching up, and plenty of direct clashes player against player all over the pitch.
UAE had everything to defend now, but were braver on the ball than perhaps expected. Al-Talyani began to show some of his class and composure on the ball as space opened up, and UAE dared to send men forward when breaking forward. It wasn’t until the dying minutes of the game that Kuwait managed to put sustained pressure on the hosts, pumping balls into the box, creating a couple of moments of panic in the UAE defence but without any clear-cut scoring opportunities.
It ended 1-0 to UAE, poising them for a certain top position in Group 3.
1 Musabah 4.4
2 K. Ghanim 5.8
4 M. Ghanim 4.5
6 Mohamed 6.2
7 F. Khamees 5.1
8 Ismail 6.4
11 Bakheet 3.8
(10 Al-Talyani 5.0)
14 N. Khamees 5.8
15 I. Meer 4.4
18 Razaq 4.5
20 Obaid 5.5
1 Al-Shemmeri 5.2
3 Juma’a 4.1
5 Mansour 4.5
6 Suleyman 3.6
(10 Al-Anezi –)
7 Marwi 4.6
12 Al-Hajeri 4.4
(21 Marzouq 3.8)
13 Abbas 6.3
14 Al-Shemmeri 4.3
15 Al-Essa 5.2
18 Al-Sayed 4.5
20 Al-Saleh 4.8