Qatar defeated El Salvador 3-2 in a thrilling quarter-final to seal their place in the 2021 Gold Cup semi-finals at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on Saturday.
A brace by Almoez Ali and Abdulaziz Hatem's strike saw Qatar race into a 3-0 lead before El Salvador pulled two back to give the reigning AFC Asian Cup champions a nervy final 25 minutes.
Qatar, however, held on for the win which takes them into a semi-final against either the United States or Jamaica on Thursday.
Qatar raced off the blocks to take the lead in the second minute following a swift counter attacking move which caught their Central American opponents by surprise.
Hugo Perez’s men, who advanced as the Group A runners-up behind Mexico, were punished for giving away possession as Akram Afif weaved his way past the El Salvador defence before setting up Ali to score from inside the box.
El Salvador responded with Alexander Larín having a look at goal in the fifth minute but he failed to find the target from outside the box.
Qatars oozed confidence and tightened their grip on the game in the eighth minute, with Hatim spectacularly finishing a wonderful build-up from just above the box.
Qatar, playing on an invitational basis, could have extended their lead but Hatim, Karim Boudiaf and Afif failed to finish their opportunities.
El Salvador tried to claw their way back into the game but were unable to convert their chances as Qatar took a two-goal cushion into the break.
The Central American side suffered another blow after conceding a penalty through Darwin Cerén in the 54th minute.
Ali, the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 MVP and Golden Boot winner, made no mistake from the spot, slotting home coolly past goalkeeper Mario González to net his fourth goal of the Gold Cup.
El Salvador, however, did not throw in the towel and pulled one back in the 63rd minute courtesy of Joaquín Rivas, who found a way through the Qatar defence to score past Meshaal Barsham.
The Central American continued to apply pressure and Rivas scored his second three minutes later with another well-crafted build-up.
Qatar, however, held off El Salvador’s late surge to walk away with the win and book their place in the semi-finals.
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