Hosts Britain took a big step
towards the quarter-finals when goals from skipper Ryan Giggs
and substitutes Daniel Sturridge and Scott Sinclair secured a
deserved 3-1 win over the United Arab Emirates at Wembley on
Giggs, at 38 years and 243 days, became the oldest man to
appear in the Olympic football competition and then became the
oldest scorer when he headed Britain in front after 16 minutes.
The result, Britain's first win in the Olympics since they
beat Taiwan 3-2 in the Rome Games in September 1960, put them top of
Group A with four points having scored more goals than Senegal
who stunned Uruguay 2-0 earlier at Wembley.
"We certainly made hard work for ourselves but all credit to
the UAE," coach Stuart Pearce told reporters.
"The two substitutes had a real impact and we had some
really good performances from the likes of Craig Bellamy and Joe
Pearce reserved his highest praise for Giggs, enthusing:
"Ryan brings respect. That's a word that's used cheaply nowadays
but the way he handles himself on and off the pitch is
outstanding and we are delighted he got a goal this evening."
Britain will now qualify for the last eight of their first
Olympics for 52 years as long as they do not lose to Uruguay in
Cardiff next Wednesday while the UAE are eliminated after losing
their first two games.
The game was full of entertaining football with Britain
dominating much of the play in front of a crowd of 85,137 - the
biggest to ever watch a British Olympic match - until the UAE
came back with Rashed Eisa equalising after 69 minutes.
They deserved their goal too with Eisa, Ismael Matar and
Ahmed Khalil playing some neat penetrative football in midfield
After recovering from the shock of conceding, Britain
rallied with two goals in four minutes from Sinclair, who scored
with his first touch after 73 minutes, and Sturridge who added
the third with a brilliant chip over goalkeeper Ali Khaseif in
the 76th minute.
"It was a fantastic ball from Tom Cleverley," said
Sturridge, who suffered a bout of viral meningitis before the
Games started which threatened his place in the side.
"I took it across the keeper and just looked for a cheeky
chip and it worked out for me."
The performance was the best of the three matches the team
has played since the squad came together three weeks ago.
Following a 2-0 warm-up defeat to gold medal favourites
Brazil and last Thursday's 1-1 draw with Senegal in their Group
A opener at Old Trafford, Britain looked far more assured and
played more like a team than before.
Pearce shuffled his defence around and gave Giggs a free
role in midfield and he relished the opportunity, evoking
memories of his younger self when he started the move with a
jinking run that led to his goal.
His cross to his Welsh compatriot Craig Bellamy was returned
perfectly and he rose to meet Bellamy's ball to head home.
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