Two Ahmed Khalil goals helped UAE beat Japan 2-1, recording a major upset in the Asian World Cup 2018 qualifiers' opening match.

Japan opened the scoring at the Saitama Stadium when Keisuke Honda powered a header from the left post past UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa just 11 minutes into the game.

However, Al-Ahli's star striker and UAE captain Ahmed Khalil managed to bring the scores back level when he scored a super free-kick at the 20th minute mark.

An inspired Emirati side entered the second-half and continued to push forward against the four-time Asian champions.

Khalil, voted best player in Asia last year, converted a penalty-kick in the 54th minute to give the UAE the lead in front of a disenchanted home crowd.

Khalil, the 25-year-old who finished the previous qualifying phase with the second highest goal record after Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al Sahlawi, had demanded that his teammates treat the match with both caution and courage, urging them to live up to expectations.

A compact UAE defence thwarted Japanese forwards ploughed through hoping to salvage at least a point from the match.

The result gives the UAE three vital points from a difficult opening game, and will surely give coach Mahdi Ali's men a huge confidence boost ahead of their second match against Australia on September 6 at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.