Rabah Saadane began the match under a great deal of pressure to secure a convincing win in order to give Algeria some positive momentum going into their World Cup opener against Slovenia. Unlike the squad that lost to Ireland, this one was boosted by the returns of defensive pillars Madjid Bougherra and Antar Yahia as well as the incorporation of Medhi Lacen in midfield. Meanwhile, the under fire Yazid Mansouri kept his place in the starting lineup despite his poor showing against the Boys In Green.
The Fennecs got thingsa under way but their slick passing was met with a UAE side intent on stopping their attacks and countering in numbers. Srecko Katanec’s team were well organized in the early going and were even looking more dangerous than their north African counterparts, putting pressure on Faouzi Chaouchi on two occasions. Sensing the danger, the Greens stepped up their play and started varying their attacks that ultimately had no end product.
Algeria arguably should have taken the lead in the 17th minute after an inspired run by Karim Ziani who found Rafik Djebbour in the box but the AEK Athens forward couldn’t get on the end of the pass. Some unsportsmanlike behavior from Ghezzal who tussled with an opposing defender was rewarded with a yellow card from the German referee in the 25th minute. The Siena player was later holding his head as he missed an acrobatic shot attempt with the goal mouth gaping. Minutes after, Algeria were denied a clear penalty after a handball by Alkamali inside the box.
The game was a sloppy yet energetic affair, with the UAE more than holding their own against their World Cup bound opponents. Forwards Matar and Ahmed Khalil were doing their best to trouble the resolute Algerian backline while the Fennecs attempted to inject as much pace into the game as possible, desperately in search of their first goal in three matches. Both teams wasted opportunities and went to the dressing rooms at the break with parity intact.
The second half’s start saw Khalil once again pestering the Fennecs with his constant pressure but Chaouchi was alert and made a correct decision to come off his line and clear the ball. In the 49th minute Algeria received a penalty after Sabil handled the ball in his area. Ziani stepped up and blasted the ball past Humaid with a powerful shot to give the Desert Warriors a 1-0 lead.
Faisal Khalil was subbed into the match for Al Shihi in the 54th minute as Katanec looked for more offensive solutions. Saadane countered by putting in Ghezzal for Rafik Saifi, Djebbour for Boudebouz, and Foued Kadir for Mansouri. The UAE Falcons resorted to trying their luck from distance but Chaouchi was equal to their efforts.
Algeria dominated possession for the rest of the encounter but still couldn’t add a second and remain without a goal from open play in their last three four outings. Saadane might very well have to tinker further to find a formula that works before the Fennecs take on Slovenia in arguably the most important match of their World Cup campaign.
Karim Ziani's match winning penalty can be seen here.