Qatar colts hold Yemen to qualify for final rounds
Skipper Naif, goalkeeper Balideh sparkle in 1-1 verdict in final Group B match; Yemen too qualify.
A moment of brilliance from their captain Naif Abdulraheem Alhadhrami and a superb save from goalkeeper Yousef Balideh unlocked Qatar’s door to the final round of the AFC Under-19 football championships as they held Yemen 1-1 at the Aspire Academy ground on Sunday.
In Group B’s last qualifying match, Qatar needed only a draw to seal their berth in the final rounds as group-winners. But they did not have it easy as Yemen tested them in the second half after a cagey first-half show.
Despite nerves kicking in, Fabio Cesar’s boys held on to force the result they needed and emerge toppers of the group with seven points. Yemen too had the same points as Qatar, but the hosts’ better goal difference placed them on top of the four-team group.
Qatar, who had beaten Sri Lanka 5-1 and Turkmenistan 4-1 in their previous matches, had a goal difference of plus-seven. Yemen had a goal difference of plus-four, having beaten Turkmenistan 2-1 and Sri Lanka 3-0.
With the four best second-placed teams across 11 groups also making the cut for the final rounds next year in Uzbekistan, Yemen are virtually through, thanks to their strong finish.
Qatar were in no mood to force the pace in Sunday’s encounter while Yemen also took a no-risk approach in the first half. Qatar suffered a blow in the 15th minute when their key striker Mekki Mohsin Tombari got injured and had to be substituted. It somewhat blunted their attacks.
Qatar, the better of the two teams in the first half, finally broke through in the 41st. The hosts earned a free-kick just outside the penalty area for a foul on Naif. The captain himself took it and curled it in beautifully, beating Osam Haidar in the Yemen goal.
The visitors came out fighting in the second half and errors began to creep in into Qatar’s defence. They escaped a couple of times before Yemen drew level in the 52nd.
Ahmed Maher, put in possession by Hussein Salem on the right, outpaced Qatari defender Abdulla Al Sulaiti, sprinted up and beat Balideh with a firm shot into the far post.
Qatar, under pressure, suffered a jolt in the 63rd when Japanese referee Yusuke Araki pointed to the spot after the ball struck Talal Ibrahim’s hand inside the penalty area. As his nervous team-mates looked on, Balideh dived to his left to block Mohammed Al Thulaia’s spot-kick, keeping his team in the game.
Yemen forced a clutch of corners thereafter, but Qatar defended well before celebrations erupted at the final whistle. Yemen too celebrated with their boisterous fans once team officials confirmed their status as a likely entrant to the final rounds.
In the group’s other match, Turkmenistan defeated Sri Lanka 4-2 to finish third.