Uruguay came from a goal down to beat an impressive UAE side 2-1 in their Olympic Games Group A opener.
Ismail Matar showed a cool head to give the underdog a shock lead but a superb free kick from Gaston Ramirez and a fine finish from Nicolas Lodeiro gave Oscar Tabarez's side all three point.
Tabarez named a strong starting lineup, which included Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez for Uruguay’s first Olympic Games since 1928. The United Arab Emirates qualified unbeaten for the tournament and Mahdi Redha Ali’s side went into the game targeting a point.
Both sides had similar opportunities early on with Matar coming close to turning in Ahmed Kalil’s cross for the UAE before Cavani failed to make contact with Ramon Arias’ ball into the box.
The breakthrough came after 20 minutes with the UAE taking a surprising, but deserved, lead. Omar Abdulrahman found Matar with a superb pass using the outside of his boot before the striker skipped around the goalkeeper and slotted his shot past two defenders on the line.
Redha Ali’s men almost doubled the lead moments later when Kalil found himself one-on-one against Martin Campana, but the Uruguayan shot stopper got down well to keep his side in touching distance.
Campana was pushed into action twice on the half-hour mark as first Rashed Eisa skipped past Arias but couldn’t find a way past the keeper from a tight angle Matar went inches from grabbing his second with a headed effort from Abdulrahman’s cross.
For all of the UAE’s chances, a brilliant free kick from Uruguay’s Ramirez gave Tabarez’s men an equalizer just before the break. The Bologna midfielder whipped a left-footed shot past the helpless Housani Ali Khaseif to give his team a goal against the run of play.
A well struck shot from Egidio Arlevaro stung the hands of the Ali Khaseif as Uruguay began to take control in the second half, but the South American side did not have to wait long to take the lead as halftime substitute Lodeiro fired home in clinical fashion after good play from Suarez to put La Celeste ahead.
The UAE didn’t carry the same threat as it had in the first period with the players beginning to tire, and Tabarez’s side looked perfectly comfortable holding on to the lead with a quarter of the game still left to play.
Uruguay plays Senegal in its next game on Sunday, while the UAE takes on Great Britain.
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- Oscar Tabarez
- Gaston Ramirez
- Ismail Matar
- Edinson Cavani
- Nicolas Lodeiro
- The United Arab Emirates