Daniel Sturridge scored a superb chip to add to Scott Sinclair and Ryan Giggs' goals to seal a 3-1 win for Team GB over UAE and provide a much-needed Group A win for Stuart Pearce's team at Wembley on Sunday evening.
Giggs' opener was cancelled out by Rashed Eisa's well taken equalizer and though UAE threatened further trouble, Pearce's substitutes came to the rescue as Sinclair netted with his first touch before Sturridge delivered a touch of class to ensure the three points.
Pearce made three changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Senegal, bringing in James Tomkins, Aaron Ramsey and Marvin Sordell for Ryan Bertrand, Danny Rose and Sturridge, whilst his counterpart Mahdi Ali opted to name the same starting XI that narrowly lost to Uruguay.
Bellamy started on the left flank and instantly troubled his opposite number, drilling a flat cross into the six yard box that was only just smuggled through to the keeper when it looked as though Sordell would score.
At the other end, UAE had an early penalty shout as Joe Allen appeared to push Eisa in the back but the referee pointed for a corner after taking a long look at the sprawling bodies.
But just as UAE was starting to grow in confidence, Team GB worked the ball from right to left as Tom Cleverley moved the ball to Bellamy and his inswinging right-footed cross was met by the 38-year-old Giggs at the backpost, who planted his header across the motionless Ali Khasif to open the scoring.
That didn't deter the Middle Eastern nation though and in patches it showed it was able to zip the ball around in the final third as well as Team GB, leading to Ismail Al Hammadi striking a 20-yard shot just over Butland's crossbar.
But the opportunities came in far greater abundance for Team GB and Sordell was the next in line to test Khasif as he collected Cleverley's pass on the edge of the box, turned his man and fired a shot that drew the UAE goalkeeper into a diving save.
In the lead-up to halftime, Pearce's side was slightly more wasteful with its chances, most evidently as Bellamy opted to hit a first time shot from the left channel rather than look for the onrushing Giggs.
But Bellamy was a constant menace and carried the ball down the left, beating Mohammed Ahmed before cutting the ball back for the onrushing Cleverley who watched as his first time shot rebounded off both posts.
Pearce made one halftime change, introducing Sturridge for the impressive Sordell as Team GB looked to find a second goal.
And it was the Chelsea man who had the first true chance of the second period as he found room in the box to wriggle onto his left-foot and fire low at goal but Khasif was equal to the effort, beating it away with his right boot.
Bellamy continued to cause the UAE defence problems but his final ball was lacking the precision needed to carve a clear cut chance. Sturridge however found room on the edge of the box, again firing at Khasif, but again finding the shot-stopper in good form.
And that was as near as GB came to opening a two goal lead as Eisa burst onto an excellent pass to career beyond a flat-footed Tomkins and pass the ball low past Butland to level the game.
It was no less than UAE deserved but was a cruel blow for Pearce's side, given its earlier dominance in the game. From here Mahdi Ali's team pressed forward and looked much the better outfit.
Khalil exchanged a fast-paced one-two on the corner of the GB box and found himself in on goal but was denied by the large figure of Butland when it appeared he would give UAE the lead. That was to be its last genuine opportunity.
As GB labored, Pearce made his second move, introducing Swansea's Scott Sinclair for Giggs, pushing Ramsey infield and Bellamy to the right flank. And the change had an immediate impact as Bellamy delivered a teasing low cross into the box that Khasif struggled to deal with, leaving Sinclair to tap home with his first touch from six yards to put GB back in the lead.
Minutes later, Sturridge latched onto Cleverley's incisive through ball and sealed victory with a deft chip over Khasif. It was an exquisite goal that received the adulation from the crowd it deserved; the Chelsea man had an impressive impact.
UAE appeared to have the stuffing knocked out of them following the third goal and the final 15 minutes were processional.
Though Team GB wobbled after Eisa's equalising goal, on the balance of play, it was a thoroughly deserved win for Pearce and a welcome three points as it targeted qualification from Group A. GB just has to avoid defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday to ensure a spot in the quarterfinals. For the UAE, elimination was confirmed by this result.
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- Tom Cleverley
- Team GB