Qatar to play Iran in semifinal after the two teams post thrilling wins on Saturday

Qatar to play Iran in semifinal after the two teams post thrilling wins on Saturday

QLNews
By QLNews

Defending champions Qatar will face Iran in Wednesday’s semifinal of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup after Marquez Lopes’ side handed Uzbekistan a 3-2 penalty shoot-out defeat at the Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday following a 1-1 draw.

Goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham saved spot-kicks from Rustamjon Ashurmatov, Zafarmurod Abdirakhmatov and Jaloliddin Masharipov to set Pedro Correia up to score the winning penalty and take the hosts into the last-four.

The shoot-out win came after the Qataris had taken the lead in the 27th minute when captain Hassan Al Haydos shot from a tight angle and Utkir Yusupov slapped the ball over his own goal line but Odiljon Hamrobekov levelled in the 58th minute with a low strike.

Neither side was able to claim a second in regulation time or in 30 minutes of extra-time to take the game to penalties.

Uzbekistan’s Ashurmatov and Qatar’s Almoez Ali had seen their efforts in the second round of spot-kicks saved before Almahdi Ali skied his attempt high over the bar, but Barsham’s saves from Abdirakhmatov and Masharipov made the difference for Qatar.

Earlier, a late Alireza Jahanbakhsh penalty was the difference as Iran came from behind to defeat Japan 2-1 and book their place in the semifinal against Qatar.

The two teams had met in the semifinals of the previous edition, with Japan emerging 3-0 winners and they looked on course to repeat the win when they took the lead before the half-hour mark, but two second-half goals from Mohammad Mohebi and Jahanbakhsh turned things around for the Iranians at the Education City Stadium.

The game between Uzbekistan and Qatar was a tense one, with Akram Afif once again carrying much of the defending champions’ threat. He stung Yusupov’s hands in the 11th minute, but it was the Qatar team captain Hassan Al Haydos who breeched the Uzbekistan defence as the hosts went in front.

Al Haydos was released into space by an astute Almoez Ali backheel, and the midfielder drove along the bye-line before hitting a shot that took just enough of a deflection off Ashurmatov to force Yusupov to push the ball into his own net.

The Uzbeks responded with Otabek Shukurov’s first-time strike from inside the area that was deflected over Barsham’s crossbar while Mohammed Waad made a goal-saving block when Azizbek Turgunboev looked destined to score.

The equaliser came in the 58th minute as Hamrobekov played the ball towards Oston Urunov, receiving possession again on the edge of the area with the space to score in the far corner with a left-foot shot across Barsham.

The Qataris went closer still five minutes into extra-time when substitute Abdel Aziz Hatim hit a scuffed shot from 25 yards that clipped the top of the crossbar, leaving the game to go to penalties and for Barsham to claim the plaudits.

Captaining Team Melli on the day in the absence of Ehsan Hajsafi, Jahanbakhsh nearly opened the Iranians’ account in the 13th minute when he picked up Saeid Ezatolahi’s pass down the left flank and curled a shot that nearly caught goalkeeper Zion Suzuki off-guard, but fizzed just over the crossbar.

The first test for Suzuki came after 18 minutes when Hidemasa Morita lost possession on the edge of the Japanese penalty box, allowing Ezatolahli to control the ball and hit with his left, but his shot was too central, and the Japanese goalkeeper had no problems in dealing with it.

Morita more than made up for his mistake 10 minutes later. The central midfielder embarked on a solo run to beat three Iranian defenders and arrive into the box before drilling an effort that made its way into the back of the net despite goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand’s best efforts to make the save.

Nine minutes after the restart, Team Melli were able to restore parity after a long pass from Suzuki was interrupted, and the ball fell to Sardar Azmoun who supplied a through pass to Mohebi. The forward was left with just the goalkeeper to beat and coolly slotted into the bottom corner for the equaliser.

The Japanese goalkeeper was called into action again to stop a spectacular Ezatolahi volley from the edge of the box and confidently produced the required save with just six minutes left to the end of normal regulation.

Deep into four minutes of added time, Iran got a golden chance to win the game when Ko Itakura brought Hussein Kanaani down inside the box.

Jahanbakhsh stepped up and emphatically dispatched it into the top corner to earn head coach Amir Ghalenoei’s side the all-important victory.

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