KUWAIT CITY: The United Arab Emirates held on to a goalless draw against hosts Kuwait to book their place in the semifinals of the 23rd Arabian Gulf Cup. The UAE finished second behind Group A toppers Oman who packed off 2018 World Cup qualifiers Saudi Arabia with a 2-0 win in the final group game.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s men were forced to weather a late surge from a spirited Kuwait before securing the point that saw them progress after wasting a host of chances early on at the Jaber al Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait City on Thursday.
Kuwait, who lost their opening two matches, could not qualify themselves but almost put paid to UAE’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.
The UAE, who beat Oman 1-0 in the opening game, were indebted to a brilliant save from centre-back Mohanad Salem al Enazi in the dying embers of the game to keep the score at 0-0. The Al Ain defender dived in front of substitute Abdullah al Buraiki to smother the Kuwaiti’s close range shot that ricocheted off his legs and sailed over the bar four minutes from time.
“We went for a win but a draw was good enough for us,” said UAE’s Mohammed Ahmed in a post-match television interview.
“What is important now is that we are in the semifinals. We had some chances to score in the first half, but that didn’t happen.
“It’s not unusual for the pressure to build up when you don’t score, but still we did well to force a draw.
UAE finished second in their group with five points behind Oman, who have six from their three outings, will be playing the winner of Group B in the semifinal on January 2.