Ali Mabhkout is now the second highest goal-scorer behind Cristiano Ronaldo among active players
It was one more night of World Cup qualifiers. And it was one more night of Ali Mabkhout magic as the prolific striker played his part in the UAE’s third straight victory since the resumption of the Group G Asian World Cup qualifying campaign.
With two goals in the resounding 5-0 win over Indonesia on Friday, Ali Mabkhout eclipsed Indian captain Sunil Chhetri to become the second highest goal scorer behind Cristiano Ronaldo among active players.
The Al Jazira star has now 75 goals from 91 matches, but the Friday night was not about him alone.
Just like the 4-0 win over Malaysia on June 3 as well as the 3-1 victory over Thailand four days later, the Brazil-born Fabio Lima was in the thick of things again, scoring from a couple of wonderful headers.
There was time for some more fun as second half substitute Sebastián Tagliabúe scored from a crisp right footer in the 86th minute, three minutes after replacing Ali Mabkhout as the UAE earned a shot at reaching the final round of the qualifying campaign.
And a campaign that seemed to be spiralling out of control before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the qualifying rounds, has now been reinvigorated in style.
The victory over the basement dwellers — Indonesia — at the Zabeel Stadium means Bert van Marwijk’s team’s faith is now firmly in their own hands, having jumped from fourth place in Group G to the second spot.
A victory against Vietnam, which overcame Malaysia 2-1 in the other game in Dubai on Friday, in their next game on June 15 will earn the UAE a ticket to final round of qualifiers as the winners of Group G.
But even defeat or a draw against the skillful Vietnam can still send the UAE to the next round as one of the four best second-placed teams across eights groups in Asia.