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02 October 2023

Why Omar Abdulrahman gave UAE coach Mahdi Ali heart-attack…

United Arab Emirates players celebrate victory as Japan's goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima sits on the ground after the quarter-final football match between Japan and UAE at the AFC Asian Cup in Sydney on January 23, 2015. (AFP)

By Agencies

UAE coach Mahdi Ali hailed Omar Abdulrahman's audacious chipped "panenka" penalty in Friday's shock Asian Cup quarter-final win over Japan -- but ordered him never to do it again.

The mop-haired playmaker wafted in his team's first spot kick of the penalty shootout with such softness that Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima almost had time to pick himself up again as the ball looped gently into the middle of the goal.

The Emirates went on to win 5-4 on penalties after a battle of attrition in Sydney which finished 1-1 after extra time, sending the holders tumbling out of the tournament and earning the Gulf side a semi-final against hosts Australia.

Ali could afford to laugh after the match, but confessed that Abdulrahman's cheekiness had given him palpitations at the time.

"I was happy for him but I told him never to do it again because it almost gave me a heart attack," Ali told AFP as the rising 23-year-old star -- known as "Amoory" -- giggled beside him.

"It was a fabulous penalty and you could see it affected the motivation of the Japanese goalkeeper. The first penalty is always key."

The slick-passing Abdulrahman, who has been linked to several European clubs, among them English champions Manchester City, proved a thorn in Japan's side in the first half after a storming start from the UAE.

They took a shock lead after just seven minutes when striker Ali Mabkhout thumped an unstoppable volley past Kawashima but as Japan flirted with disaster, substitute Gaku Shibasaki fired a late equaliser for the Blue Samurai.

"Japan played better than us today," admitted Abdulrahman. "But we stuck together and fought together as a team, and we showed great spirit and determination."

Japan talisman Keisuke Honda took the first penalty of the shootout and blazed his effort embarrassingly high over bar.

Abdulrahman's, in contrast, was pure class and after Shinji Kagawa struck the post, Ismail Ahmed delivered the coup de grace for the UAE.

"You can't blame a player for missing a penalty," said Japan coach Javier Aguirre, defending Honda. "Once you get to a penalty shootout, it comes down to luck and we didn't have the luck today."