Japan's narrow victory sees them progress to the final where they will face Son Heung-min's South Korea
The UAE exited the 2018 Asian Games but did so with their heads held high following a battling 1-0 defeat to heavyweights Japan in the semi-finals.
After an underwhelming passage to the last four via two penalty shootout wins against North Korea and minnows Indonesia – their only win at the Games came courtesy of a 4-1 hammering of lowly Timor-Leste in the group stage – Maciej Skorza’s side went toe to toe with the Samurai Blue.
Ayase Ueda struck a venomous goal 12 minutes from time to pierce the UAE’s hopes – rocketing a shot off the underside of Mohammed Al Shamsi’s crossbar after a fine tackle and pass from Kota Watanabe to set him up.
Ueda still had plenty to do but opened up his body beautifully and thundered his effort past the Al Wahda stopper.
Japan, expected to turn the Junior Whites over, instead toiled at the Pakansari Stadium on Wednesday.
Despite enjoying the dominant share of possession, Japan were constantly frustrated by their opponents, who also looked dangerous on the counter.
But Watanabe’s incisive pass and Ueda’s unstoppable finish was enough to send them into Saturday’s final, where they’ll play reigning champions South Korea, while the UAE will meet Vietnam in the battle for the bronze medal.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min played a captain’s role as Korea beat plucky Vietnam 3-1 to reach the final.
The World Cup star, who is missing the start of the Premier League season to represent his country in Indonesia, is now just 90 minutes away from a gold medal that would spare him a career-threatening spell of military service.
“I’m ready, I don’t think I need to say anything more,” said Son, refusing to be drawn on the subject. “We’re close to winning gold, to making history, and we will fight for it.”
A double from Lee Seung-woo and another goal from free-scoring striker Hwang Ui-jo sent the Taegeuk Warriors through to the final, where they will chase a record fifth title.