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05 December 2023

Asian Cup semis: Australia beat UAE after firing early salvos

By Agencies

Hosts Australia rode two early strikes to a 2-0 victory over United Arab Emirates that sent them into the Asian Cup final for a second successive tournament at a rain-soaked Newcastle Stadium on Tuesday.

The Socceroos, who lost to Japan in the final four years ago, will take on another East Asian power in South Korea on Saturday in Sydney looking to seal a first continental title at their third attempt.

Defenders led the way for the goal-happy tournament hosts with Trent Sainsbury heading them in front after three minutes and Jason Davidson doubling the lead 11 minutes later.

The UAE stunned champions Japan in a penalty shootout to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1996 but another upset never looked on the cards after Australia's early salvo.

Attacking midfielder Omar Abdulrahman did nothing to detract from his burgeoning reputation with some delightful touches and striker Ahmed Khalil hit the woodwork in the first half but they were unable to create enough clear-cut chances.

The wet pitch probably did not help but Australia, with Matthew Spiranovic restored to the back four after suspension, also defended well enough to contain Abdulrahman and his team mates.

It was at the other end of the pitch that the Socceroos made the most important early impression to the delight of the majority of the crowd of 21,079.

Winger Robbie Kruse had his cross blocked after a burst down the right in the opening couple of minutes but when the corner came swinging into the box, Sainsbury rose unchallenged to head the ball into the net off the turf.

The UAE had their best chance in the 10th minute when Abdelaziz Sanqour broke down the right flank and crossed for striker Khalil to hit the ball first time against the base of the post.

Australia were straight back on the attack, though, and after another surge down the right the ball was heading towards Tim Cahill in front of goal.

Cahill was dragged back as he was attempting a shot and Mathew Leckie then had an effort blocked but the ball fell to Davidson, who calmly drilled it low and hard into the goal.

The Australians were in no mood to sit back and protect their lead but the UAE kept their shape and gradually worked their way back into the contest.

Khalil let fly with a long-range effort that flew past Mat Ryan and wide of the post in the 51st minute and Abdulrahman continued to probe for weaknesses in the Australian defence.

Massimo Luongo, Australia's find of the tournament, had another impressive game in midfield and his curling effort came close to the target after 72 minutes.

The Socceroos continued to press forward and Leckie forced a save out of Majed Naser in the 75th minute, although the referee failed to see it and awarded a goal kick.

The UAE probably deserved a goal but Ali Ahmed Mabkhout had his shot smothered by Sainsbury in the dying minutes to leave his tally for the tournament at four. 

First-half goals from defenders Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson fired Australia into their second straight Asian Cup final with a 2-0 win over United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.

Sainsbury and Davidson were both on target within the first 15 minutes before the Socceroos withstood consistent pressure from the Gulf team to reach Saturday's final against South Korea.\

Australia have ended UAE's exciting run in the Asian Cup with two early goals to set up a final with South Korea on Saturday.

Full time

Australia 2 (Sainsbury 3" Davidson 14") UAE 0

90" Australia are three minutes away from making the Asian Cup final for a second time in succession.

89" Mabkhout is denied by a sliding tackle while Leckie is blocked at the other end.

87" Socceroos have defended well shutting out Omar Abdulrahman and could have added to their tally.

85" Juric fires a powerful shot just wide of the right as Australia look to seal victory.

82" Socceroos make a change with Kruse making way for James Troisi.

80" UAE keep pegging away but come up against the wall.

78" Kruse is cringing in pain holding his ankle while UAE make a change with Haboosh Saleh replacing Abbas.

76" Kruse crosses dangerously into the six-yard area before it is cleared away for corner which is headed over by Jedinak.

74" The White work the ball with some crisp passing from Al Hammadi and Ismaeel before Australia recover.

71" Kruse shoots wide of the far post after a superb pass from Leckie.

69" Al Hammadi makes a break earning a corner which is taken short with Omar sending it floating wide while UAE are denied a penalty after Abbas is tripped.

67" Tomi Juric substitute Cahill as Socceroos bring in some fresh legs.

66" UAE make another change as Saeed Al Kathiri comes in for Khalil.

65" Yellow for Jedinak who fouls Omar.

64" UAE threaten with a delightful thread through by Omar Abdulrahman for Mabkhout.

62" UAE concede a corner and Naser wins the aerial challenge with Cahill.

58" Socceroos make a substitution as Milligan makes way for McKay.


56" Kruse fires wide on the counter after UAE threaten with another sweeping move as Mabkhout crosses into the box.

55" Socceroos attack on the left flank but Kruse is offside.

53" Al Hammadi has injected more firepower into the UAE line-up as they come close again.

51" Khalil fires a thundering shot which swirls just out of Ryan and across goal after a lovely ball from Al Hammadi.

50" Socceroos earn a couple of corners but UAE manage to survive.

47" Omar Abdulrahman fires a love left footed cross into the box but Mabkhout is just offside.

46" It's raining in Newcastle as both sides attempt to settle down after the interval.

UAE get the second half underway with Mahdi Ali having made a change as Ismail Al Hammadi replaces Mohamed Abdulrahman.

Half time

Australia 2 (Sainsbury 3" Davidson 14") UAE 0


Australia held a commanding 2-0 lead at half-time of their Asian Cup semi-final against United Arab Emirates following goals from unlikely sources in Newcastle on Tuesday.

Central defender Trent Sainsbury headed the Socceroos in front after only three minutes, before left-back Jason Davidson coolly slotted the second on 14 minutes.

45" Australia finish the half with another sweeping attacking move despite a long ball from Omar Abdulrahman causing some anxiety.

43" Defender Salem who has been outstanding needs some treatment after tangling with Leckie who gets a yellow card.

41" Australia under some pressure with Omar orchestrating the moves but Salem is forced to defence Leckie launches a counter attack.

39" Cahill is just offside after a long kick from Ryan nearly catches UAE napping.

37" Mabkhout and Khalil switching wings and UAE looking dangerous on the break, especially down the right.

36" Khalil fires another one straight to Ryan.

35" Khalil breaks free on the right but his final cross was poor.

33" Kruse makes another break on the left before Luongo runs into traffic.

30" Khalil makes a lovely run on the left and crosses but fails to find Omar but UAE have their first corner but it is headed over the bar.

28" Socceroos are knocking the ball around winning the midfield battles denying the Whites ball.

26" Luongo attempts an ambitious shot from an acute angle on the right.

24" Omar Abdulrahaman with a beauty of a pass to find Mabkhout but just offside..

22" Omar Abdulrahman has to come to UAE's rescue as Kruse punches holes in the defence in tandem with Cahill.

20" Amer Abdulrahman attempts a weak shot from long range while Kruse chips one over as he tries to find Cahill.

18" Socceroos are in a rampant mood now stepping up a gear.

16" UAE's defence is in shambles as Australia double their lead.

Australia 2 (Sainsbury 3" Davidson 14") UAE 0

14" GOAL! Australia have two-goal cushion with Davidson sidefooting into the net.

12" UAE are intent on firing at goal while Socceroos are looking to hit on the break.

10" UAE are on the offensive and Sanquour is just wide of the near post after a fine cross from Khalil.

9" UAE are making forays into the opposition box with Khalil floating one across goal.

8" Sanquor floats one into the box which is comfortably collected by Ryan.

5" UAE defend another corner from Australia who are turning it on.

4" Brilliant start by Socceroos as Sainsbury rises and heads home a corner.

Australia 1 (Sainsbury 3") UAE 0

3" GOAL! Australia score from the first corner.

2" UAE are seeing more of the ball early in the game.

1" UAE make a foray on the left flank.

Kick-off: Australia get the second semifinal under way.

The national anthems of UAE and Australia are done.



Both teams are walking out of the tunnel and the atmosphere is electric.

"We are very motivated to play this game and achieve our dream. We hope that the game goes as we wish," said UAE coach Mahdi Ali.

Socceroos skipper Jedinak said they would not be underestimating the Whites particularly star player Abdulrahman.

Abbas returns from suspension. Mohammed Abdulrahman replaces Habib.


Starting line-ups for the Asian Cup semi-final between Australia and United Arab Emirates in Newcastle on Tuesday:

Australia - Mathew Ryan; Ivan Franjic, Matthew Spiranovic, Trent Sainsbury, Jason Davidson; Massimo Luongo, Mile Jedinak (capt), Mark Milligan; Robbie Kruse, Tim Cahill, Mathew Leckie

United Arab Emirates - Majed Naser (capt); Abdelaziz Sanqour, Walid Abbas, Mohanad Salem, Mohamed Gharib; Amer Abdulrahman, Khamis Esmaeel; Mohamed Abdulrahman, Omar Abdulrahman, Ali Mabkhout; Ahmed Khalil


Abdulrahman fit

The United Arab Emirates coach Mahdi Ali has assured that key midfielder Omar Abdulrahman will be fit to play in Tuesday's Asian Cup semi-final against Australia.

Ali dismissed suggestions Abdulrahman was carrying an injury from Friday's quarter-final win over Japan, insisting the 23-year-old was ready to go.

"We don't have any injuries in our team. Omar was not limping and ran normal," Ali told reporters on Monday.

"Everybody is ready for the game. Hamdan Al Kamali was injured before the game against Japan in training, but we have no other injuries."

The UAE's star man is Omar Abdulrahman, and Ali brushed off comments by Australia's Trent Sainsbury that the silky playmaker is "not the hardest worker".

"We don't pay attention to what is said. Omar has shown all the talent and skills and he is one of the best players in the tournament," said the coach.

And he stressed that underdogs UAE, who shocked holders Japan in the quarter-finals, were confident of making Saturday's final at the hosts' expense.

"Australia have some strong points but they also have some weaknesses that we will try to work on," said the Emirati.

"We will fight, we will not let go very easily and I am confident in my team," he added.

UAE will go into the match at Newcastle's Hunter Stadium as clear underdogs but not without some hope.

They had to dig deep to beat Japan on penalties after they finished tied at 1-1 after extra time.

They also have a good pedigree in the Asian Cup, reaching the final in 1996 and with real ambitions of emulating that feat in 2015, even if it means upsetting the tournament hosts.

"We will fight and keep going and not let it go very easy. We are very confident in our team and our players that you will see on the field," Ali said.

"Australia are one of the best in Asia and we have seen them qualify for the semi-finals. They are a very good team with a good group of young and experienced players and they have a good coach.

"When we came here we announced our goal was to achieve the semi-final and our first goal has been achieved.

"Now the second part is that we aim to reach the final and we will work very hard to reach our level and reach the final."

Postecoglou wary

The Socceroos will go into Tuesday's match as heavy favourites but Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has been at pains to play down local expectations the result was a foregone conclusion.

"I haven't seen a major tournament where the tournament goes to script," Postecoglou said.

"We haven't looked past our next opponent. If people were assuming we were preparing to meet a certain team in the final, they have missed the point of what we have been doing.

"We didn't want to be the ones who missed out on a semi-final because we were thinking so far ahead."

Most people expected Japan to beat UAE and join Australia in the semis but Postecoglou said he had been keeping a close eye on UAE in case they met each other.

The teams played a friendly last year which ended in a scoreless draw and Postecoglou is acutely aware of their ability, especially with star midfielder Omar Abdulrahman.

"We have got a great respect for them and we have been tracking them since the World Cup," he said.

"We had a feeling they could be an opponent, as even though we did not get them in the group, we thought they would be one of the teams we would get in the knockout rounds.

"We know them really well and we have analysed them well and we know it will be a tough challenge for us."

Australia will be boosted by the return of key defender Matthew Spiranovic, who missed the quarter-final win over China due to suspension.

Spiranovic is likely to be rushed back into the starting lineup in one of several changes the Australians hope will give them the edge over UAE.

"Everyone has pulled up really well from the quarter-final game. Everyone is available and in good condition which means they have played enough games, but not too many in the most part," said Postecoglou.

"We will make some changes, but they will be designed around putting out a team who we think can be successful."

Aussies 'not only Cahill'

UAE boss Mahdi Ali also warned his team not to focus solely on talisman Tim Cahill despite his heroics in leading Australia into the Asian Cup semi-finals.

Australia's record scorer has hogged the limelight after his stunning bicycle-kick and header downed China 2-0 in the last eight, with Cahill memes circulating on social media.

But Ali told reporters: "Australia are not only Tim Cahill. We have to think about the whole team, not just one player.

"Australia are one of the best teams in Asia - we have seen that during this tournament. They have good players and work as a team."

Mock-up pictures of Cahill rodeo-riding a rhino and kicking pop star Justin Bieber have been doing the rounds on Twitter as the #cahilling trend kicks off.