LONDON: Two goals within four second-half minutes from Scott Sinclair and Daniel Sturridge fired Great Britain to a 3-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates in their Olympic tie at Wembley.
This prospective victory lifted coach Stuart Pearce’s men top of Group A on goal difference ahead of Senegal with whom they had drawn 1-1 in their opening game last Thursday in Manchester.
Pearce had made three changes in personnel from that opening game at OldTrafford and several positional switches, one of which saw captain Ryan Giggs moved out to the right of midfield from the centre.
The Manchester United veteran, one of Britain’s three permitted over-age players, soon capitalised on the space. In the 17th minute he fed the ball inside to clubmate Tom Cleverly and, while Cleverley was switching play to the left, so Giggs drifted in, unnoticed, to be perfectly placed to head home Craig Bellamy’s cross.
This was Giggs’s first competitive goal at Wembley, 20 years after his first appearance there. Simultaneously he was also making Olympic football history. At 38 years 243 days he has overtaken Hussein Hegazi of Egypt to become the oldest ever player in the Olympic football tournament.
Bellamy had been fit to start Great Britain’s second game of the Olympic football tounament after having been shaken up by a thundering challenge from Saliou Ciss in the Senegal game. He might have had a goal but keeper Ali Khaseif saved an angled shot well at his right-hand post. Khaseif was then saved by his left-hand post just on half-time after Cleverley swept a shot goalward.
The significance of those missed chances was underscored on the hour when Rashed Eisa arrowed through the flat-footed Team GB defence to ram the equalising goal past Jack Butland.
Minutes later Butland was fortunate to save with his legs from Ahmad Khalil and, for a while, the UAE looked more likely than GB to claim the next goal.
However, in the 72nd minute Pearce sent on Sinclair for the tiring Giggs and, within a minute the Swansea striker had scored with his first touch to put Britain 2-1 ahead. Bellamy was again the creator, cutting in from the right and delivering an akward fast, low cross which keeper Khaseif could only push into Sinclair’s path.
Two minutes later and Team GB were 3-1 up. Sturridge, who had joined the game at half-time in place of Sordell, found space just outside the penalty box and chipped the advancing Khaseif with exquisite judgment.
This secured Britain’s first football win at the Olympic Games for 52 years . . . since beating China 3-2 on September 1, 1960, in a group game Grossetto at the Rome Games.
Great Britain: Butland – Richards, Caulker, Tomkins, Taylor – Ramsey, Allen – Giggs (Sinclair 72), Cleverley, Bellamy (Cork 83) – Sordell (Sturridge 46).
UAE: Khaseif – Hussain, Ahmad, Al-Kamali, Sanqour – Omar Abdulrahman, Amer Abdulrahman Esmaeel, Eisa – Matar, Khalil.
Referee: Garcia (Mex).
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