CANBERRA, Australia (AP) Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout scored two goals each as the United Arab United Arab Emirates took advantage of a series of goalkeeping errors to beat Qatar 4-1 in the Group C opener Sunday at the Asian Cup.
Qatar goalkeeper Qasem Burhan was at least partially responsible for three goals in a blundering opener for the 2014 Gulf Cup champions.
"He made two mistakes but this is football," said Qatar coach Djamel Belmadi. "In the previous competition, he was the best goalkeeper of the tournament. Today, was not his day … but the defenders also did not help him.
"We were focused, we have to look and have to search for the reason for losing this game."
Despite the Qatar errors, the UAE fully deserved the win and started well with Khalil and Mabkhout both shooting wide from close range in the opening 10 minutes.
It was Qatar, however, which took the lead midway through the first half. Majed Naser blocked an initial shot from Mohammed Muntari but Khalfan Ibrahim, positioned on the edge of the area, chested the ball down and lobbed it back beautifully over the head of the retreating UAE goalkeeper.
That was as good as it got for Qatar, tipped by many as potential contender at this tournament. The UAE equalized nine minutes before the break when Qasem spilled a cross and, after a scramble in a crowded area, a defensive goal-line clearance from a Khalil header bounced off the striker’s chest and into the net.
Khalil’s free kick early in the second half deceived Qasem and bounced into the far corner of the Qatari goal. Another set piece ended the game as a contest.
Khamis Esmaeel’s well-struck free kick was parried by the Qatari goalkeeper into the path of Mabkhout, who scored into an empty net from close range. The striker added another goal in the 89th, ensuring the UAE scored four goals in an Asian Cup game for the first time.
"I’m very happy with this win," said UAE coach Mahdi Ali. "I was sure that the players would do their best and would play a good game. We worked hard for this as this was the key game for us. The first step gives players motivation and confidence for the second game … from tomorrow we work harder."
The UAE squad remains in Canberra to take on Bahrain on Thursday, when Qatar plays Iran in Sydney.