Qatar scripts history by lifting back-to-back AFC Asian Cup titles

Qatar scripts history by lifting back-to-back AFC Asian Cup titles

QLNews
By QLNews

Akram Afif scored a hat-trick of penalties as Qatar lifted their second consecutive AFC Asian Cup title after defeating Jordan 3-1 in the final at a packed Lusail Stadium on Saturday.

Though Yazan Al Naimat’s equaliser gave first time finalists Jordan a flicker of hope, Afif’s coolness and Qatar’s overall superiority saw them defending the title they won in emphatic fashion in 2019 comfortably. 

Afif’s hat-trick, the first of the tournament, took his tally to eight goals as he won the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 Yili Top Scorer Award. 

Ahead of the kick-off, Iraq legend and former captain Younis Mahmoud unveiled the AFC Asian Cup trophy in front of a capacity crowd at the Lusail Stadium, warming the fans up nicely for the final.

Qatar settled faster, with Afif almost catching Jordan napping in the fifth minute when he waltzed through the defence. But goalkeeper Yazeed Abulaila was quick off his line to thwart the danger.

Afif had another crack at goal two minutes later when Lucas Mendes did well on the right flank before sending his cross into the six-yard-box, but the Al Sadd forward fired a low drive straight into the arms of Abulaila.

Qatar continued to pressure the Jordanian defence with Hasan Al Hydos threading a delightful through ball to Almoez Ali, who was stopped in his tracks by an alert Mahmoud Al Mardi.

Limited to just counter-attacks, Jordan’s Nizar Al Rashdan whipped a long ball for Ali Olwan, with the forward setting up Yazan Al Naimat, who forced goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham to parry his powerful drive from above the box.

Jordan struggled to match Qatar’s intensity and paid the price in the 22nd minute following Abdallah Nasib’s clumsy challenge on Afif, who coolly slotted home the ensuing penalty to take his tournament tally to six.

Jordan, having had to play second fiddle for the majority of the half, could have equalised just before the break, but Mousa Tamari saw his effort from inside the box blocked by Mohammed Waad, with the Montpellier forward then failing to find the target from close range, sending Olwan’s cross over the bar.

That, however, was a prelude to what was to come from Jordan in the second half as they took the game to Qatar.

Barsham, who had a quiet game in the opening period, had to be on his toes with Olwan threatening in the 56th with an acrobatic effort before the shot stopper denied Ehsan Haddad three minutes later from close range.

Jordan poured bodies forward and came close again in the 61st when Al Tamari was denied by the post with Al Rawabdeh hitting the side netting on the rebound, but their persistence was finally rewarded in the 67th.

An unmarked Al Naimat showed excellent ball control inside the six-yard-box when he collected Haddad’s cross from the right flank before riffling his effort into the bottom corner.

The increased tempo paid dividends in the 73rd when Qatar were awarded a second penalty following Mahmoud Al Mardi’s foul on Ismaeel Mohammad, with Afif again making no mistake from the spot to restore Qatar’s lead. 

There was no respite for Jordan as they conceded their third penalty after goalkeeper Abulaila was judged to have brought down Boualem Khoukhi after a VAR review, with Afif stepping up once more to convert from the spot to complete his hat-trick in the fifth minute of added time and hand Qatar their second AFC Asian Cup title.

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