New Castle (Australia): Ali Mabkhout put one hand on the Asian Cup top-scorer award on Friday as the United Arab Emirates came from behind to beat 10-man Iraq 3-2 in an entertaining third-place play-off.
The Al Jazira marksman took his tally for the competition to five with a nerveless second-half penalty, putting him a goal ahead of partner Ahmed Khalil who grabbed a brace.
Khalil opened the scoring on 16 minutes, sliding the ball past goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed to complete a blistering counter-attack sparked by midfield wizard Omar Abdulrahman.
It was the stand-in captain’s first goal since his double against Qatar in their opening Group C match, and the Emiratis were on top in the early stages with Abdulrahman again pulling the strings.
But on 28 minutes the momentum swung towards Iraq when Waleed Salim’s deflected shot from inside the box looped over goalkeeper Khalid Eisa and into the back of the net.
The Iraqis then took the lead three minutes before half-time, winger Amjed Kalaf slotting in a rebound from close range after Eisa parried Ahmed Yaseen’s powerful shot.
Younis Mahmoud, the hero of Iraq’s 2007 Asian Cup win, spurned a golden opportunity to extend the lead when he blazed wide when through on goal just after the restart.
And Iraq would rue that miss when on 51 minutes Abdulrahman chipped a trademark ball over the defence to Khalil, who finished with aplomb to make it 2-2.
UAE soon went 3-2 ahead when Mabkhout rolled in his penalty on 57 minutes, after being bundled over in the box by Ahmed Ibrahim who was sent off.
Ten-man Iraq worked tirelessly for the equaliser in the remaining half-hour but UAE held firm to finish the tournament on a high.
Mabkhout now has a strong chance of being crowned top scorer in the tournament, although Australia’s Tim Cahill will go into Saturday’s final on three goals. (AFP)