Mahdi Ali resigns as UAE lose again
Outgoing manager concedes ‘that Australia were the better side’
SYDNEY // Mahdi Ali said a raft of injuries had conspired to make the UAE’s two matches in the space of five days against two of Asian football’s biggest powers, Japan and Australia, a mission impossible.
The manager, who resigned after the UAE lost 2-0 to Australia at the Sydney Football Stadium, said that 14 players were absent when the side first met up ahead of Thursday’s game against Japan in Al Ain. He made five changes to his starting line-up in Sydney, and a disjointed national team were soundly beaten.
“We did not even train for one session with a full team before the Japan game,” Mahdi Ali said. “We came here, and had a full-team training only one day. Some players were sick, some other players did not play for a long time.
“For the conditions we suffered, we could not do better than that. It was difficult to prepare the team for such a big game against Australia.”
Mahdi Ali has not ruled out the UAE’s chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia, even though he will not be part of their future.
With three matches left and nine points to play for, the national team are still mathematically able to catch each of the three teams above them – Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia.
“We were very optimistic to at least get one point, but after this game it will be very difficult for us,” the outgoing manager said.
“We dreamed about this for a long time, but we suffered today and lost that match.
“It is very difficult for us to qualify, but you never know. This is football.
“For the past two weeks, we suffered a lot. Today, Australia were the better side. I don’t want to look for excuses.
“We tried our best with the conditions we have. Australia were the better side.”
One of Australia’s star turns was the UAE-based midfielder Mark Milligan. An injury to Massimo Luongo on the eve of the match meant the Baniyas player was reinstalled into the home side’s midfield, having played in an unaccustomed role of central defence against Iraq last week.
He excelled in blunting the attacking threat of the likes of Omar Abdulrahman and Ahmed Khalil, earning praise from Ange Postecoglou, the Australia manager.
“We knew their threat was going to be the transition, if we gave the ball away,” Postecoglou said.
“They have really dangerous players who can hurt you. Milligan and Mile [Jedinak] did a good job in nullifying that.
“Milligan is very brave, he asked for it in tight areas. We only made the decision to move him in there late yesterday because Massimo pulled up sore. He did very well.”
Mahdi Ali watched his side lose for a second time in six days with defeat to Australia in Sydney.