The War Elephants beat Gabon 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out after the match was goalless in regular time last night (Mar 22).
Goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan was the hero of the team as he saved two spot kicks for the hosts during the shoot-out.
In their game, Slovakia dominated the first half, which produced both of their goals, and were lucky to escape a penalty shoot-out when the UAE, also missing a couple of their regular starters, upped the tempo of their attacks after the break and pulled one back.
Under the King’s Cup regulations, no extra time is granted in case of a tie after 90 minutes and the match is decided on penalties.
Slovakia, led by former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel, had a chance to go up as early as the seventh minute but striker Robert Mak fired a long pass from Patrik Hrosovsky wide. A minute later, Tomas Hubocan was denied by the bar.
The UAE, who like all other teams in the tournament have failed to reach the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, had trouble creating openings and made only rare trips to the Slovakian half.
Slovakia, playing without their regular skipper Hamsik who was ruled out of the King’s Cup because of an injury sustained while playing for Napoli in a Serie A game against Genoa last Sunday (Mar 18), had most of the possession for the first 45 minutes.
After a Michal Duris shot was saved by UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa, Slovakia saw midfielder Ondrej Duda send a long shot over the bar.
The UAE’s only real scoring opportunity came in the 31st minute when a long through ball by Mohamed Abdulrahman was directed just wide of the goalmouth by their captain Ahmed Khalil.
Slovakia’s first goal came in the 42nd minute when Patrik Hrosovsky set up Albert Rusnak and they picked up another in the first-half injury-time with Duris, left unmarked by the UAE defenders, heading in a Peter Pekarik cross.
The UAE looked a different team in the second half as they went all out on the attack with Khalil once again missing the target by a whisker in the early moments.
While the UAE had the control of the match in the second half, Slovakia still looked ominous whenever they moved up and during the last 20 minutes, Eisa was forced to make another spectacular save, warding off a Hubocan shot.
The UAE kept pressurising Slovakia and were rewarded with a goal in the 74th minute when their captain Khalil made amends for his earlier misses and narrowed the deficit to 2-1.
Slovakia players looked tired towards the end of the encounter and the UAE launched waves of attacks, hoping to push the match into a penalty shoot-out.
During the six minutes injury-time, the UAE were awarded a free-kick which Mahmoud Khamis sent over the bar.
A minute later, Khalil chipped the ball but it missed the target by a few inches to let Slovakia march into the final. The UAE will next play Gabon in the third-place play-off.
The battle for the third place and final will also be played on Sunday at the same venue.
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