An Opening Day Nightmare for the UAE

The 2019 Asian Cup kicked off this evening with an impressive ceremony at Zayed Sports City Stadium at Abu Dhabi, before the match between the hosts, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. In what was supposed to be a festive start for the Emiratis, has eventually ended with an ambivalent 1-1 draw. 

The UAE opened the match without enthusiasm, while missing Omar Abdulrahman’s flair and leadership. 

The majority of fans and commentators forgot that this Bahrain team, almost accidentally, got to the Gulf Cup final in Kuwait, in the early days of 2018. These players might not be one of the most professional sides in the competition but are surely a tough team to play if you don’t score fast. And the UAE didn’t. 

Ali Mabkhout, his team almot failed to handle Bahrain well (2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC))

Ali Mabkhout, his team almot failed to handle Bahrain well (2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC))

Though, it was a bit more than that, as the hosts’ most important player was the goalkeeper, Khalid Eissa. At a home Asian Cup opener against semi-pro Bahraini side, that’s certainly not enough. Alberto Zaccheroni’s players continued their ‘deep grey’ form from the preparation friendlies, while the Bahrainis simply rocked. Ali Madan, Mohamed Al-Romaihi & Kamel Aswad shined for the visitors, who went on a late justified advantage, eyeing a shocking result. 

In the end, the cautious call by Adham Makhadmeh, the Jordanian referee, for a penalty - has ruined a wonderful day for the underdogs. 

As the VAR (video assistant referee) technology will be implemented to the tournament only in the knockouts, the referees decided to go on a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach and gave Ahmed Khalil the chance to equalize the score. 

A disappointing start for the hosts, while Miroslav Soukup’s Bahrain can be frustrated too. Bahrain has definitely deserved more than just one point in this game. They will look for more against India & Thailand.