A man the locals call ‘the Ghost’ put the frighteners on the Blues last night.
Mohamed Al Shihi scored the from the penalty spot in the eighth minute and a zestful UAE side, made up of several under 20 players, showed enough brio and élan to make sure they were never truly in danger of losing this friendly at Zayed Sports City.
The heat and humidity were clearly in the home side’s favour but they were aided too by some sloppy Blues passing and the fact that they have – with one or two exceptions - been together as a side for the past five years.
The pivotal moment came when Stuart Taylor seemed to lose his bearings and the ball and hauled down UAE skipper Saeed Al Kas. The Blues ‘keeper was shown a yellow card for his trouble and then well beaten down to his right side.
Ben Mee also found himself the victim of a fastidious referee Mohamed Omar Al Saeedi and he too went into the book as an uncreative City struggled to make any inroads into a well-drilled home back line.
The nearest the visitors came to even troubling the home keeper came in the 25th minute when a Paul Marshall free kick from 20-yards curled over the bar without really raising the heartbeat of the UAE’s last line of defence.
Things could have become even worse for City in this ‘Our Country versus Our City’ clash a minute before the break when a sweet volley from Yousuf Jaben looked destined for the net until it hit birthday boy Nedum Onuoha and sped wide of the post
City were better after the break and Ireland at last brought a save from Khsaif, and an athletic one at that as he went full length to his right to fist away a well flighted free kick from City’s captain for the night and best player.
...Chris Bailey in Abu Dhabi...
Ireland’s night was not however improves when he became the third City player booked after he had a frustrated tangle with Mubarak with twenty minutes remaining.
There was further annoyance for the Blues when they failed to be awarded a penalty as Kieren Trippier’s cross seemed to strike the arm of defender Qassim and there was almost a leveller in the 82nd minute when Nimley’s low cross was sliced beyond his own far post by Abbas.
UAE though finished as strongly as they started and Taylor had to be alert to tip over a fierce long range effort from Mahmoud Khamis leaving an ecstatic home side to collect the Emirates Foundation Cup and Mark Hughes to reflect on a poor night.
City: Taylor, Trippier, Onuoha, Mee (Boyata 66), Vidal, Zabaleta, Tutte (Redshaw 78), Marshall (Poole 56), Ireland, Benjani, Nimley. Not used: Nielsen, Moore, Kay, Redshaw, Johansen.
UAE: Khsaif, Dhanhani, Qassim (Fayez 76), Jaben, Mubarak, Kamali (Abbas 79), Khater (Rahman 46), Al Wahiabi (Awana 46), Khamis, Al Kas (Khalil 46), Al Shihi (Mabkhout 67).