Qatar beats Tajikistan to become first team to progress to knockout phase

Qatar beats Tajikistan to become first team to progress to knockout phase

QLNews
By QLNews

Hosts Qatar ground out a hard-fought 1-0 win against Tajikistan in Group A of the AFC Asian Cup at the Al Bayt Stadium on Tuesday to qualify for the knockout phase with one game to spare. With the win, they took an unassailable six points to top the group.

Earlier in the day, Lebanon and China had settled for a 0-0 draw at the Al Thumama Stadium. 

While China is second in the group with two points, Tajikistan and Lebanon follow with a point apiece.

Qatar, who wanted to ensure they progressed to the second round without any hitches, played for the win from the beginning.

Akram Afif scored the match’s only goal in the 17th minute. His right-footed shot from the centre of the box found the bottom left corner of the net. Almoez Ali assisted him with a through ball following a fast break.

Qatar went close to scoring again in the 39th minute through Jassem Gaber, whose header from the right side of the box off a cross from Afif was saved by the goalkeeper.

Akram Afif proved to be a livewire throughout the match, creating scoring chances one after the other. He was always a dangerous presence on the rival goalmouth and the Tajik defenders found it hard to contain him.

Tajikistan got a huge blow when their young player Amadoni Kamolov was shown a red card for violent conduct. He was initially given a yellow by the referee for kicking out at Qatar’s Ahmed Al Ganehi, but the referee upgraded it to red after a lengthy VAR consultation.

There was a total of 11 minutes of added time and Afif almost put Qatar ahead again in the seventh minute of added time, but the goalkeeper collected his header safely.

Earlier, with both China and Lebanon needing victory to keep their chances of qualifying alive, the two teams hit the ground running. Lebanon were the quicker to settle, and they took the game to a China side who looked shaky each time they came under pressure. 

With five minutes gone, Lebanon’s Khalil Khamsi saw his header from Kassem El Zein’s throw-in collected safely by goalkeeper Yan Junling while at the other end, Wu Lei took advantage of a loose ball from defender Nour Mansoor to set up Lui Bin Bin but the latter’s effort was punched away by Lebanese custodian Mostafa Matar. 

Both sides continued to exchange blows with striker Omar Chaban the Lebanese livewire, with his right-footed attempt hitting the side netting.

Dai Weijun forced Matar into action moments later, with the custodian needing two attempts to deny the China number 9. 

It was Lebanon, however, who should have gone into the break ahead but Hasan Matouk’s right footed shot from outside the box was denied by the crossbar. 

Lebanon once again came close to breaking the deadlock, but midfielder Hasan Srour’s right-footed shot from outside the box was fisted away by Junling. 

Both sides rang in the changes late into the second half, but a breakthrough eluded them, leaving their knockout stage hopes hanging in the balance.

China will face hosts Qatar on Monday while Lebanon will cross swords with debutants Tajikistan.

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