Insatiable record-breaker Ali Mabkhout has insisted a hat-trick against Indonesia to become the UAE’s all-time top scorer “will not be enough for me”, with the chase for World Cup 2022 qualification only just beginning.
Mabkhout, 29, came alive in the second half after Al Wahda midfielder Khalil Ibrahim had forced a 41st-minute opener at Dubai’s Al Maktoum Stadium in Thursday’s 5-0 thrashing of Indonesia.
A chipped finish, unflinching penalty and deft one-on-one – added to in injury time by substitute Tariq Ahmed’s rebound – ensured two wins from two second-round clashes. This also moved the 29-year-old onto a landmark 54 goals from 81 caps – beating the iconic Adnan Al Talyani’s tally of 52 in 161.
“I’m so proud, I’m so happy and I will continue to score and help my team,” said Al Jazira striker Mabkhout.
“They just told me I am the best one now, but everyone tells me a number. I don’t know exactly what the number is.
“For sure, I cannot tell you how happy or how proud I am, but the big importance is the team won. But this one makes me a better player and encourage to score more and more – it will not be enough for me.”
Mabkhout will be determined to add to a punishing qualifying tally of five goals in two matches when Thailand are faced on Tuesday at Thammasat Stadium.
Meanwhile, coach Bert van Marwijk was happy to see his balancing act come off between winning matches and giving “young players a stage to perform at this level”.
Van Marwijk, 67, kept faith with the same youthful XI that opened their Group G-commitments with an unconvincing 2-1 win at Malaysia. In Dubai this week, youthful Al Jazira centre-backs Mohammed Al Attas and Khalifa Al Hammadi kept a first clean-sheet and teenage Al Wasl winger Ali Saleh came away with two assists.
“Young players can become better players when they train,” said the World Cup 2010 finalist. “So that is always the doubt of a coach.
“On one side you want to give the young players a stage to perform at this level. On the other side, you also want to win.”
He added: “I think we have almost 50 per cent of a new team, with very young players. This is the second game in the qualification and when I now see the performance of this team, I can be satisfied.
“I think we played a good game. They showed a lot of discipline on the pitch, we didn’t have a yellow card either.
“We had full control of the game, the only thing from the first half was the last pass. We were not stable and secure enough with the through-ball.
“In the second half, it was much better. We scored four goals – I can be satisfied and very happy.”
The refreshed UAE top Group G with six points from two games. First spot guarantees entry to the third round, while the four-best runners-up from the eight pools will also advance.
There is already no hope of Indonesia going any further.
Scotsman Simon McMenemy, 41, oversaw a third loss from three qualifiers, after also being downed by neighbours Malaysia and Thailand. The former assistant coach of English non-League football side Worthing was gracious, once again, in defeat.
He said: “I think we have to tip our cap to a very good team. They are not just a good team, they are a very well conditioned team.
“Such are the difficulties that we face. Similar things have happened for three games in a row.
“It is a difficult situation. But in terms of the effort the players put into the game, every player gave everything he had in the tank – and probably a bit more.
“When you see your players give 100 per cent, you can’t complain. Mistakes do happen, especially when you are tired and fatigued from a long season.”
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