Yemen rally to hold Qatar; Bangladesh blank Bhutan
Hosts need to win big against Bhutan as the qualification race from Group E of the AFC Under-16 meet is thrown wide open.
The game between hosts Qatar and the neighbouring Yemen was billed as the most exciting in Group E of the 2020 AFC Under-16 qualifying tournament, and it lived up to expectations.
Both sides fought hard for a win, created chances aplenty and were also unlucky in equal measure. At the end of it all, 1-1 was the result, leaving the group wide open ahead of Sunday’s final round of matches.
Qatar and Yemen are on four points each after two matches with Yemen placed on top, thanks to their superior goal difference of plus nine to Qatar’s plus 2. Bangladesh, who defeated Bhutan 3-0, are third.
Yemen play Bangladesh first on Sunday, followed by Qatar’s clash against Bhutan. If Yemen defeat Bangladesh, Qatar will have to post a big win over Bhutan to qualify as group winners.
Qatar, who had beaten Bangladesh in their opener, attacked from the word go against Yemen. Rashid Abdulaziz Al Abdullah, who created many chances, was one of their most creative and hardworking players.
But the Yemenis, buoyed by a large group of passionate supporters, refused to be overawed. They bided their time and made intelligent raids into Qatari territory.
Yemen’s Mohamed Ahmed Mahdi, who scored four times in their opening game against Bhutan, was particularly effective in cutting open Qatar’s defences. His audacious runs through the left flank left Qatar reeling.
Qatari captain Mahdi Salem Almejaba was their midfield general and shaped the hosts’ attacks. Mubarak Shanan Hamza also had a good game.
After a goalless first half, the second began at a furious pace, with both teams attacking and counterattacking with equal zeal.
Rashid, who went on the attack in the 55th, was tripped inside the penalty box and referee Payam Heidari of Iran pointed to the spot. Mohammed Salem Al Quraishi made no mistake, placing it to the left top corner of the net.
Yemen’s hardworking Hasan Mohammed Al Kawmani reaped rich rewards for his persistence when he scored his side’s equaliser in the 77th. Qatari goalkeeper Abdalla Mohamed Abrahim, who until then had been in fine form, let Al Kawmani’s shot slip through his fingers.
Qatar then suffered when the referee waved the game on after disallowing a clear goal in the final minute. The attempt by Mubarak, off a corner kick by Mahdi, crossed the goal-line but was disallowed.
The home side’s German coach Abderrazak Hedider criticised the decision.
“My boys played well, but it wasn’t our day. The Yemenis were bigger and pushed us to the limit. But we did the same to them. The last-minute attempt was a clear goal but was disallowed. Such is football. We’ll now regroup and prepare for our game against Bhutan,” he told Inside Qatar.
Yemeni coach Mohammed Saleh Ali praised his boys’ resilience.
“Despite not having much time together, my boys matched their Qatari counterparts in ambition and fitness. Full credit to them for executing my plan. It was a great result for us and our fans. I hope Qatar and Yemen will qualify from the group,” he said.
While the group winners qualify directly, four best runners-up from the 11 groups, in addition to the hosts, will also make the cut.