Football: UAE roar back to thrash rivals Qatar

CANBERRA (AFP) - United Arab Emirates stormed back from behind to defeat Gulf rivals Qatar 4-1 as they displayed their Asian Cup credentials with a fluent win on Sunday.

Top-rated midfielder Omar Abdulrahman was at his creative best as both Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout grabbed a brace after "Qatari Maradona" Khalfan Ibrahim put his side ahead.

Khalfan's deftly taken chest and volley proved Qatar's best moment as the 2022 World Cup hosts proved fragile at the back, with goalkeeper Qasem Burhan committing two costly blunders in the Group C opener.

"I was sure they would play well, but in football you can never be sure of the result and I am very happy with today's performance," said UAE coach Mahdi Ali.

UAE started the brightest and Mabkhout almost opened the scoring after 10 minutes when he smashed the ball into the side-netting.

Shortly afterwards, midfielder Mohamed Abdulrahman blazed over the bar after the ball broke kindly to him on the edge of the box.

The Emiratis rued their misses when the pint-sized Ibrahim took a rebound on the chest and acrobatically lobbed goalkeeper Majed Naser to open the scoring after 22 minutes.

Qatar grew in confidence and they almost went 2-0 up when left-back Abdelkarim Hassan drilled a powerful shot narrowly past the post.

However, UAE always looked dangerous through the trickery and imagination of Omar Abdulrahman, allied with qualifying top-scorer Makbhout and powerful target man Khalil.

And it was Khalil who grabbed the equaliser after 37 minutes after Omar Abdulrahman caused panic in the defence by twice stealing the ball down the right.

Qatar failed to deal with the subsequent cross and after Khalil's powerful header was cleared off the line he knocked in the rebound to put UAE level eight minutes from half-time.

The goal buoyed UAE and they came flying out of the traps at the start of the second half, before going ahead seven minutes later.

Goalkeeper Burhan reacted too late as Khalil's penetrating free-kick from the left edge of the box evaded everyone and sailed past into the far corner.

"My second goal was certainly more beautiful than my first," a delighted Khalil, who was named man of the match, said afterwards. "I hit it exactly how I wanted to."

Four minutes later, Burhan again failed to deal with a set piece and he palmed the ball to Mabkhout, who gratefully slotted it home for UAE's third.

Qatar worked tirelessly to get back into the game and they hit the post with five minutes to go in what was their best spell of the game.

But all-out attack left them exposed at the back and Omar Abdulrahman combined with Mabkhout to set up the prolific striker's second of the game on 89 minutes.

Qatar coach Djamel Belmadi called it a "really bad start".

"They showed more quality, more creativity. They scored from two free kicks which really put us in a bad position," said the Algerian.

"It was a big punch in the face and it was difficult to come back. We tried but it was to late, we didn't score soon enough to expect to equalise."