UAE boss Alberto Zaccheroni was hopeful that history will repeat itself for the 2019 Asian Cup after host nation UAE played out a poor 1-1 draw with Bahrain.
The Whites’ worrisome build-up was reflected at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City – attendance was far from a sell-out at 33,878 – and they appeared on course for a chastening loss in Group A when replacement striker Mohamed Al Romaihi lashed in at the second attempt on 78 minutes. Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club striker Ahmed Khalil, however, was called from the substitutes’ bench and he delivered on 88 minutes, thanks to a fortuitously awarded penalty kick.
Back in 2011 when Zaccheroni was in charge of Japan, they recovered from a limp 1-1 opening draw against Jordan to claim the competition. This triumph played on the ex-AC Milan, Juventus and Japan tactician’s mind on Saturday.
He said: “When I was in charge of Japan, we ended with a draw in the first game of the 2011 Asian Cup against Jordan, then we won the tournament.
“The same scenario played out today, as we went behind.
“What is very important for me, is not only performances. The performance in the first half was aggressive and I thank them for fighting in the game.
“I told them what matters is to evolve gradually, from one game to the next.
“We will correct all the mistakes and look at the mistakes we made and learn lessons from them in the next game against India. Hopefully, the performances will get better and better.
“The team is different, with different potential and a style also. The UAE is prepared to face any qualified team in the Asian Cup.
“We will analyse and evaluate the performance of the players.
“When we will watch the game away, we will try to correct the mistakes they made.”
The UAE will need to build on this rescue act on Thursday against India at the same venue.
Unfancied opponents Bahrain had come agonisingly close to a memorable result.
But head coach Miroslav Soukup declined to describe the stalemate as a “hard luck story”.
He said: “Of course, we are happy because it was an open game. If someone told us before the game we’d play a draw, we’d be satisfied.
“Some people may think hard luck. But it was not – the UAE are a strong team, especially in the first half.
“Maybe the players were a little under pressure. Many spectators, nice atmosphere.
“This is not a hard luck story. The UAE had many chances in the first half.
“From our side, in the second half our performance went up. Now in front of us, is two more difficult games.
“We hope that the first pressure is behind us. Now, our results and performances will be much better.”
Bahrain next meet up-and-coming Thailand on January 10 at Dubai’s revamped Al Maktoum Stadium.
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