Mahdi: Amer's injury return integral to UAE success
UAE coach Mahdi Ali believes Amer Abdulrahman’s return from injury has been integral to the side’s recent success.
Abdulrahman’s appearances for the Whites were restricted in the first half of the season, but having proved his fitness in the friendlies against Yemen he was ever-present as the UAE got their hands on the Gulf Cup of Nations in Bahrain in January.
The Bani Yas midfielder was on form again on Friday, instrumental in both goals as the UAE stormed back from a goal down to beat Uzbekistan 2-1 in Abu Dhabi.
It handed Mahdi his 11th win in a row as UAE coach, with the Whites’ unbeaten run now stretching to 13 games following a 1-0 defeat to Japan in his first game in charge.
“Amer was influential, he played very well and he assisted two goals,” Mahdi said. “We have seen that with Amer coming back, especially from the Oman game in the Gulf Cup [when he assisted the first goal of Ahmed Khalil’s brace], he has started going higher and higher, he is improving a lot.
"I am very happy for him to come back to this level because he is a talented player and a good playmaker for the team.”
However, it was not only Abdulrahman who received praise following the comeback victory. While Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout grabbed the goals, the performances of Ismail Matar and goalkeeper Ali Khaseif were also lauded by the two coaches.
Mahdi was delighted to see Matar, a second-half substitute at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, take responsibility defensively as well as in the attacking third.
“He did very well and was fighting for the ball and we saw that he was going to attack, but also coming back to defence,” Mahdi added. “Before we didn’t see Ismail doing a defensive role but we saw he tried to change his style for the team. He worked very hard for the team and I am very happy for that.”
The Whites were also grateful to two fine saves from Jazira keeper Khaseif – as well as the woodwork – with eight minutes left, and Uzbekistan coach Mirdjalal Kasimov described the 25-year-old’s performance as “brilliant”.