Haydos magic lifts Qatar, debutants Tajikistan progresses to knockout stage

Haydos magic lifts Qatar, debutants Tajikistan progresses to knockout stage

QLNews
By QLNews

Hassan Al Haydos, who came on as a substitute in the 66th minute, produced a moment of magic two minutes later to help Qatar beat China 1-0 in a Group A game of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday.

The Qatari captain came off the bench to smash a spectacular volley — a goal-of-the-tournament contender — from 20 yards past the helpless Yan Junling to send Aleksandar Jankovic’s Chinese team home.

Meanwhile, debutants Tajikistan produced a stirring comeback to defeat 10-man Lebanon 2-1 in the other Group A game and prolong their AFC Asian Cup journey even further.

The Central Asian side showed great fight and spirit as Nuriddin Khamrokulov’s goal in the second minute of stoppage time saw them finish on four points, two better than China PR with Lebanon on one point.

Parvizdzhon Umarbaev scored Tajikistan’s first-ever goal in the tournament in the 80th while Lebanon’s goal came through Basel Jradi in the 47th.

China had needed a win to be certain of advancing to the last 16 but, after failing to find the back of the net in their opening games against Tajikistan and Lebanon, the Chinese once again miss-fired in attack to limp out of the competition.

Qatar started with the tournament’s joint-leading scorer Akram Afif on the bench alongside 2019 AFC Asian Cup golden boot winner Almoez Ali and Al Haydos as Marquez Lopez made 10 changes to the team that started the 1-0 win over Tajikistan.

The Chinese, meanwhile, left Wu Lei on the side lines with Wei Shihao making his first start alongside captain Wu Xi and Lin Liangming as Dai Wai-tsun and Xu Xin were also dropped to the bench.

While Boualem Khoukhi sent an early header wide of the Chinese goal, it was Jankovic’s team who cut through the home defence in the seventh minute, narrowly failing to take the lead after Lin Liangming released Zhang Yuning and his cutback was thumped wide by Wei.

Zhang had an effort blocked by Khoukhi as China made their attacking intentions clear early in the game, although the Qataris presented a threat at the other end despite their wholesale changes, with Abdulaziz Hatem’s curling strike clearing the bar.

Khalid Muneer’s dipping attempt dropped over the crossbar while Chinese strike duo Zhang Yuning and Wei both steered headers off target in the final exchanges of the opening 45 minutes.

Muneer threatened again early in the second period, but with the game at risk of petering out, Lopes introduced Afif and Al Haydos from the bench, and within moments the pair combined in spectacular fashion.

Afif’s perfectly flighted corner found Al Haydos unmarked on the edge of the penalty area and the veteran midfielder drove his first-time right-foot strike home at an unstoppable rate to secure Qatar’s third win in a row and end China’s AFC Asian Cup challenge.

With Amadoni Kamalov out due to suspension, Tajikistan coach Petar Segrt introduced Shervoni Mabatshoev into the starting line-up.

Backed by a sizable Lebanon-supporting crowd in the stands, Miodrag Radulovic’s side had two openings early on, but attempts by Hussein Zein and Hassan Maatouk were well covered by Tajikistan custodian Rustam Yatimov.

Tajikistan responded with their first attempt on target in the 24th when Zoir Dzhuraboev climbed high at the back post to get his head on to Akhtam Nazarov’s cross, however, it was a tame effort.

In the fifth minute of added time, Mabatshoev thought he had struck Tajikistan’s first-ever goal at the AFC Asian Cup, but it was ruled out for offside after a VAR check as the teams went into the break tied.

Lebanon started the second half in fine fashion, scoring their first goal of the tournament two minutes in when Hassan Srour fed Jradi, who curled his shot into the far corner beyond the despairing dive of Yatimov.

Joy turned to worry for Lebanon in the 56th after they went down to 10 men following Kassem El Zein’s dismissal, an initial yellow card for a studs-up challenge on Alisher Dzhalilov changed to red card after a VAR check.

For the second time in the match, Tajikistan found the back of the net - this time through Dzhalilov in the 69th minute, but yet again a VAR check determined that Mabatshoev had been offside in the build-up.

Tajikistan’s first-ever AFC Asian Cup goal finally came with 10 minutes remaining when Parvizdzhon Umarbaev produced a delightful free-kick into the bottom corner, giving Matar no chance.

The comeback was completed two minutes into added time when Ehson Panshanbe swung a cross into the box which saw Khamrokulov looping a header into the net beyond Matar as Tajikistan took their AFC Asian Cup debut into the knockout stage of Qatar 2023.

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