Members of the Emirati national set up had always spoke highly of the significance of the presence of the 12th man (their fans) in the stadiums. And the crowd had finally responded as never has been a match involving the host nation was ever louder than it was at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium tonight.
It took one mistake by the Australian defense resulting in the United Arab Emirates registering their first every victory over the Australians. What better stage for that to arrive in than this?
It was the Australians who started off in the front foot as defender Trent Sainsbury was unable to connect on an open header in the 4th minute from just outside the 6-yard box.
For the Emirati’s, Mabkhout had a similar attempt at an header after right winger Bandar Al-Ahbabi found himself in the 16th minute, receiving the ball on the left close to the Aussie keeper Mathew Ryan’s goal who was able to lob the ball to on rushing Mabkhout. However, he failed to connect.
It was the Emirati’s who maintained pressure as a breakaway in the 20th minute initiated by Majed Hassan in the center of the pitch found Ismael Al-Hammadi on the run who was able to calmly get past the his marker and strike the ball, however it was directed straight at the keeper for him to punch it away.
Apostolos Giannou tested Khalid Eisa with a powerful strike from 15 yards as the visitors went in search of the opener, however his attempt was confidently dealt with by the keeper in the 40th minute.
The Abyad’s came close on their own merit few minutes before the half as captain Matar’s corner was initially nicked on by early substitute Khalifa Al-Hammadi to Mabkhout who yet again failed to convert on an open goal.
Australia looked like they had taken the lead in the 63rd minute with Giannou’s well placed strike past Eissa however it was negated by the referee Ryuji Sato who adjudged Mathew Leckie to be in an offside position prior to his first time header to find Giannou.
Mabkhout finally redeemed himself in the 68th minute breaking the deadlock, as the striker was fortunate enough to receive a poor back pass by Milos Degenek to his keeper allowing him to run past Mathew Ryan to slot home the opener.
From there, the Abyad’s cruised through the majority of the remainder of the match and would, with a more ruthless edge to their counter-attacks, have scored more however they were content as the Aussies did not have a response.