UAE prove no pushovers in fighting Norway draw

Barnaby Read 22:22 27/08/2014
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Build up: The UAE are touring Europe as part of their preparations for the Gulf Cup of Nations that they won in 2013 (pictured).

A battling UAE held Norway – ranked 12 places higher at 53rd in the FIFA rankings – to a nil-nil draw in Norway in an impressive display from Mahdi Ali's men.

Pre-match talk was dominated by Norway's Martin Odegaard who, at just 15 years of age, became his country's youngest international footballer. Much intrigue surrounded the Stromsgodset midfielder's appearance and he was bright throughout, even coming close to getting himself on the scoresheet during the first half only for his control to let him down when he needed it most.

The UAE, without returning captain Ismail Matar and six of Al Ain's Champions League heroes, were boosted by presence of Bani Yas midfielder Amer Abdulahman's place in the starting XI following a ten month absence enforced by a serious knee injury.

Ali's team were chasing shadows during the early exchanges as they failed to get to grips with a lively Norwegian side full of vim and vigor that pressed the visitors at every opportunity.

The UAE did settle however, and looked good in possession but their defensive frailties so often cruelly exposed against European sides came threatened to undermine their efforts.

Ismail Al Hammadi had the UAE's best chance of the first half as they caught their hosts cold with a fast counter attack. The Al Ahli forward was set free on 23 minutes from a clever reverse pass that allowed him to burst towards goal but his effort was blocked by a covering Norwegian defender and deflected wide for a corner.

Al Hammadi again came close to giving his nation the lead on the stroke of half-time but under extreme pressure was unable to turn home a low cross from the right that flashed past the Norwegian goal.

The second 45 at Sta­vanger’s Viking Stadion started in much the same manner as the first as Norway got into their stride with more ease than the UAE.

It turned into a rather draw second period though as both sides failed to unlock the opposition defence.

Lithuania on September 3, and Paraguay on September 7 now await the UAE before the squad heads home in time for the new Arabian Gulf League season.

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