Qatar score a vital win against gritty Oman
Akram Afif and Almoez Ali strike as Asian champions register a 2-1 victory to stay on top of Group E.
Akram Afif and Almoez Ali combined to rescue Qatar as the Asian champions registered a 2-1 win over Oman to stay atop Group E in the Asian Cup 2023/World Cup 2022 joint qualifying rounds on Tuesday.
Playing their first match at the Al Janoub Stadium, Qatar were not at their very best as they failed to grab many opportunities, including a penalty, to punish their rivals. Afif’s second-minute goal and Almoez Ali’s 71st-minute strike thus proved vital for the hosts.
Qatar led by Afif’s goal for a long period, without really going all out. They were jolted out of their slumber by Al Mandhar Al Alawi who fired in a superb equaliser in the 64th minute. A draw would have been a setback for Qatar, but Almoez saved them the blushes with a clinical finish to earn them full points.
Having played four matches, Qatar are at the halfway stage of their qualifying campaign and they have reasons to be pleased with the numbers against their name. With three wins and a draw, they have 10 points, four more than the second-placed Oman, who suffered their first defeat in three matches.
The Omanis are followed on the table by Afghanistan (3), India (2) and Bangladesh (1).
India and Bangladesh played out a 1-1 draw in the group’s other game in Kolkata.
Afif had missed Qatar’s match against India and came on as a 68th-minute substitute in the Bangladesh game. But given a start on the day, he made an immediate impact.
Abdelaziz Hatim paved the way for the goal with a cross-field ball for Yusuf Abdurisag, who centred it from the right to Afif, who ran in and beat Faiyz Al Rusheidi in the Oman goal with a firm shot.
With their opponents wounded, Qatar could have gone for the kill, but it was Oman who came close to equalising. A quick move between Mohammed Al Musallami and Al Alawi resulted in Abdulaziz Maqbali gaining possession inside the Qatar penalty area, but he shot straight at goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.
|Group A||Syria bt Guam||4-0|
|Philippines drew with China||0-0|
|Group B:||Jordan bt Nepal||1-0|
|Chinese Taipei lost to Australia||1-7|
|Group C||Cambodia lost to Iraq||0-4|
|Bahrain bt Iran||1-0|
|Group D||Palestine drew with Saudi Arabia||0-0|
|Singapore lost to Uzbekistan||1-3|
|Group E||Qatar bt Oman||2-1|
|India drew with Bangladesh||1-1|
|Group F||Mongolia lost to Kyrgyz Republic||1-2|
|Tajikistan lost to Japan||0-3|
|Group G||Thailand bt UAE||2-1|
|Indonesia lost to Vietnam||1-3|
|Group H||North Korea drew with South Korea||0-0|
|Sri Lanka lost to Lebanon||0-3|
Almoez could have hoisted a 2-0 lead for Qatar soon after, but Oman defender Abdulaziz Al Gheilani cut off the danger on time, blocking a fierce shot by the striker. Oman survived again in the 25th minute when Hassan Al Haydos blasted a penalty wide. Chinese referee Ming Fu had awarded the spot-kick for a foul on Afif by Faiyz.
Almoez held the threat of a goal every time he was put in possession, but he could not apply finishing touches to a clutch of promising moves and the 1-0 advantage seemed in danger at the start of the second half when Oman pressed ahead. Only Tarik Salman’s last-ditch clearance saved the hosts as Mohammed Al Ghafri and Al Maqbali breached the Qatar defence.
Qatar seemed to have regained control, but Al Alawi struck a surprise equaliser, cashing in on a less than convincing Qatari defence to move up and fire the ball past Al Sheeb from the right.
The fans at Al Janoub were stunned to silence, but Qatar soon brought them alive, with Afif and Almoez getting the attack rolling again. And it was Almoez who brought them to their feet, playing a neat one-two with Afif on the right and driving the ball beautifully, past the far post, as if to atone for his earlier misses.
A desperate Oman looked dangerous close to the final whistle, but Qatar stayed alert to ward off the danger and walk off with three good points.
Qatar coach Felix Sanchez admitted it was a tough match, but he praised his players for bouncing back to force a victory.
“We faced a team who played a well-organised game. There were phases when we dominated, but could’nt score and unfortunately, we missed that penalty. But after they equalised, my players showed character to come back and score again. I’m pleased with that,” said Sanchez.
Oman coach Erwin Koeman felt Qatar’s quality had carried the day.
“Our players did well, but in the end, you need a little bit of extra quality to win games like these. Still, my players fought till the end, I’m proud of them,” said the Dutchman.