Naif, Tombari strike two as Qatar down Turkmenistan
Hosts score second straight win to move closer to qualification from Group B; Yemen drub Sri Lanka.
Qatar fought their way past a stubborn Turkmenistan, posting a 4-1 victory on Friday to move closer to a spot in the final rounds of the 2020 AFC Under-19 Football Championships.
In a Group B qualifying match at the Aspire Academy ground, Qatar had to toil hard against their physically superior rivals. But their persistence finally paid off, with the second straight win placing them firmly on top of the group.
After a barren first half, Qatar got their goals through captain Naif Abdulraheem and Mekki Mohsen Tombari. Naif pushed open the door, firing in the first two goals while Mekki slotted in the next two to give the scoreline a convincing look.
The only disappointment for the hosts was a red card to their defender Mohamed Aiash in the 72nd minute, forcing them to play the remaining time with ten men.
Qatar have six points, the same as Yemen, who defeated Sri Lanka 3-0 in the group’s other match. But the hosts’ goal difference of plus-seven gave them the advantage, with Yemen on a plus-four difference. The two teams will meet in the group’s last match on Sunday, with Qatar requiring only a draw to go through to the final rounds in Uzbekistan next year.
Qatar, despite having a major share of possession, could not find a way past the well-organised Turkmenistan defence in the first half. The final passes kept going astray and frustration began to seep in as the scoreboard remained blank at half-time.
Five minutes into the second half, Naif found a way through. Put in possession by Abdulla Al Sulaiti on the left, the Qatar captain struck a powerful right-footer from 25 yards out, beating Turkmenistan goalkeeper Orayev Amanmuhammet. Orayev got a fingertip to the ball but could not prevent it from going in.
Turkmenistan almost got the equaliser three minutes later, with Myratberdiyev Rehman heading a Hydyrow Shamammet free-kick goalward. But Qatar custodian Yousef Abdullah leapt high to tip it over in the nick of time.
Abdullah, though, was a helpless spectator as Turkmenistan equalised in the 58th. Controlling a throw-in from the left, Myradov Begenchmyrat set up the goal with a nice chip to the centre. Myratberdiyev was well-positioned in the penalty box to head it in, beating Al Sulaiti to the ball.
But Qatar did not lose their heart or hope. Naif again showed them the way, timing his run to the penalty area to perfection and directing home a cross from Mekki in the 63rd. The hosts were firmly in the saddle five minutes later as Tombari headed in a cross from Jassim Al Mehairi on the left to take a 3-1 lead.
But the red card to Aiash jolted them. The defender, already on a yellow, kicked the ball away petulantly after being pulled up for a foul, inviting the wrath of South Korean referee Kim Heegon.
Turkmenistan could not capitalise on that, however, and it was Qatar who struck again. Jassim again turned provider, crossing from the left for Mekki to slot home the fourth goal, in the 81st. It was his fourth goal of the tournament and Qatar protected the three-goal advantage till the end.
Qatar coach Fabio Cesar praised his boys for their fighting display. “It was a tough game against a difficult opponent. The boys were struggling to find space in the Turkmenistan defence but Naif showed them the way with that superb shot,” he said.
“Even when they equalised, our players maintained the structure. I’m very happy with the performance and now we’ll focus on the Yemen game. It won’t be easy as they’ve very skilful players. It’ll be an interesting game,” he said.