Super subs earn GB vital victory

Substitutes Scott Sinclair and Daniel Sturridge spared Great Britain's blushes as they beat UAE 3-1 in their Olympic football Group A clash.

Last Updated: 29/07/12 at 21:55 Post Comment

Sinclair & Sturridge: Team GB's matchwinners

Sinclair & Sturridge: Team GB's matchwinners

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The duo gave watching England manager Roy Hodgson a nudge as Great Britain's first Olympic win since 1960 sent them top of their group at Wembley and meant they only need to avoid defeat in their final game against Uruguay to book a place in the quarter-finals.

After Ryan Giggs had become the oldest goalscorer in Olympic history, GB required a rather more youthful duo to drag them out of a hole after Rashed Eisa had equalised for United Arab Emirates.

Sinclair was scoring with his first touch, although it is perhaps Sturridge who has more chance of featuring in next month's squad for the friendly against Italy in Berne, especially if he impressed Hodgson with his superb chip 14 minutes from time.

The result got GB back on track to secure a quarter-final berth, although they will almost certainly need to avoid defeat against Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium on Wednesday to seal their knockout berth.

Senegal's shock win over Uruguay in the first match of the day had brought GB's need for a victory into sharp focus.

Criticised for his team selection against the Africans on Thursday, Pearce made three changes, including the introduction of Aaron Ramsey, bringing the Welsh contingent to five.

More importantly, it provided an extra man in midfield which allowed GB to exert far more control against an admittedly much less physical UAE outfit.

As against Senegal, GB's opener was crafted in the Valleys.

This time, after Giggs had fed Tom Cleverley and continued motoring into the box, the roles were reversed as Craig Bellamy provided the cross and the veteran Manchester United man rose unopposed to nod home.

UAE were a sporadic threat and if Neil Taylor had not intercepted an Ahmed Khalil pass, they would have had two men racing clean through at Jack Butland at one point.

However, GB were creating most of the chances and were disappointed not to be further ahead at the break.

Ali Khaseif denied Bellamy and then saved his side when some quick thinking by Ramsey presented Cleverley with a chance inside the six-yard box.

Cleverley then managed to strike both posts after meeting a Bellamy cut-back with a precise first-time finish.

It was the kind of fluency Stuart Pearce had promised would eventually come to a squad given the briefest amount of preparation time compared to almost all the teams in this tournament.

The introduction of Daniel Sturridge for Marvin Sordell at half-time replicated a move in reverse that Pearce had done at Old Trafford.

Sturridge almost made the desired impact too after being set up by Ramsey, only for Khaseif to block his angled shot.

The Chelsea striker failed to take another opportunity before GB were hit by a sucker punch on the hour as Rashed Eisa took advantage of the kind of defensive slackness that proved so costly against Senegal.

This time it was Omar Abdulrahman that sent a pass straight into the space Neil Taylor and James Tomkins should have been filling between then. Eisa raced onto it and gleefully beat Jack Butland.

The goal turned what should have been a routine win into a nervy search for salvation.

From offering virtually no threat, suddenly every UAE attack had menace.

Butland was the hero, standing up to Khalil when he received Abdulrahman's excellent return pass, and making a vital block before Micah Richards cleared.

As Hodgson watched on, Pearce took the bold decision to replace Giggs with Sinclair.

It turned out to be a masterstroke.

With his first touch, Sinclair was on hand to tap home as a Bellamy cross created panic in the UAE box, Khaseif succeeding only in pushing it straight to the Swansea man, who tapped into an empty net.

Three minutes later, GB sealed their win as Sturridge charged through, then beat Khaseif with an impudent chip from the edge of the area.

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