Mahdi Ali re­signs as UAE lose again

Out­go­ing man­ager con­cedes ‘that Aus­tralia were the bet­ter side’

The National - News - Sport - - FOOTBALL - Paul Radley [email protected]­

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.”

Wil­liam West / AFP

Mahdi Ali watched his side lose for a sec­ond time in six days with de­feat to Aus­tralia in Syd­ney.

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