Asian Cup 2019: UAE opens tournament with disappointing draw against Bahrain
The 2019 Asian Cup kicked off on Saturday with an impressive opening ceremony at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi before the first match between the hosts, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.
But what was supposed to be a festive start for the Emiratis eventually ended with an ambivalent 1-1 draw. The UAE opened the match without much enthusiasm, clearly missing Omar Abdulrahman's flair and leadership.
The majority of fans and commentators forgot that this Bahrain team, almost by sheer accident, went to the Gulf Cup final in Kuwait in the early days of 2018.
These players might not be the most professional in the competition, but are surely a tough team to play if you don't score fast. And the UAE didn't.
It was a bit more than that though, as the hosts' most important player was the goalkeeper, Khalid Eissa. At a home Asian Cup opener against semi-pro Bahraini side, that's certainly not enough.
Alberto Zaccheroni's UAE players continued their "deep grey" form from the preparation friendlies, while the Bahrainis simply rocked.
Ali Madan, Mohamed Al-Romaihi and Kamel Aswad shined for the visitors, who went on a late justified surge, eyeing a shocking result.
In the end, the cautious call for a penalty by Jordanian referee Adham Makhadmeh ruined a wonderful day for the underdogs.
As VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology will only be implemented at the tournament in the knockout stages, he decided to go on a 'better safe than sorry' approach and gave Ahmed Khalil the chance to equalise the score.
It was a disappointing start for the hosts, while Miroslav Soukup's Bahrain will be frustrated too.
Bahrain definitely deserved more than just one point from this game. They will look for it against India and Thailand.