Japan undone by set-pieces in shock UAE defeat

Japan undone by set-pieces in shock UAE defeat

Ahmed Khalil shocked a sold-out Saitama Stadium on Thursday when his brace enabled UAE to defeat Japan 2-1 in the first match of the final phase of 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Japan had taken the lead when Keisuke Honda stole in at the back post to head home a free-kick in the 11th minute.

But AFC Player of the Year Khalil equalised before half-time with a ferocious free-kick of his own that Urawa Reds goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa was unable to stop, tipping the ball off the underside of the bar before it crossed the line.

Set-pieces continued to prove Japan’s undoing after the break as Ismail Al Hammadi was pulled down in the box and Khalil calmly dispatched a panenka-style penalty to hand his side the 54th-minute lead.

Shinji Okazaki then had the Samurai Blue’s best chance to equalise but hit the bar as UAE clung on to a shock win over their Vahid Halilhodzic’s hosts, who will next look to turn things around when they take on Thailand on Tuesday.