Gulf Cup: Qatar hammer UAE to reach semi-finals

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Rising star Akram Afif celebrated his 2019 Asian Player of the Year award by firing a brace as Qatar stormed into the semi-finals of the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup with a crushing 4-2 victory over the UAE at packed Khalifa International Stadium, yesterday.  

Following the emphatic win, the Felix Sanchez’s side finished the preliminary stage on second position after collecting six points, with Iraq topping Group A with 7 points after a goalless draw against Yemen in yesterday’s other match at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium.

Asian champions Qatar will meet Saudi Arabia, who finished on top of Group B after sending defending champions Oman packing with a 3-1 win yesterday, in Thursday’s semi final.

With a full house of around 44,000 cheering fans creating an electrifying atmosphere, Qatar dominated in both the halves to record their second victory over regional opponents in 11 months, with their first being the famous 4-0 drubbing against them at the AFC Asian Cup semi-final in January.     

Yesterday turned out to be an all Afif show as the 23-year-old, a couple of hours after being named the AFC Player of the Year, gave Qatar lead in the 20th minute and added another eight minutes later through a penalty.

Qatar captain Hasan Al Haydos was on target in the 53rd minute before Boualem Khouki completed the score-line just before the final whistle. Striker Ali Mabkhout scored the UAE goals in 33 and 77 minutes.
“Congratulations to all of Qatar, the fans and the players,” a delighted Sanchez said after the match.      

“We played a good match in both the halves and created many chances while converting some of them. We deserved the victory,” Qatar coach added before heaping praise on Afif.

“It’s a great day for Afif. We are very happy for him he has been a very hardworking player and deserve the accolade,” said Sanchez.

UAE head coach Bert van Marwijk said: “ We conceded goals too easily at crucial moments.”

 

The three-time champions - seeking a victory when even a draw was enough - started early attacks with previous match’s hat-trick scorer Abdelkarim Hassan giving a threat in the fifth minute by picking up a long ball, which he could not controlled completely with just goalkeeper Mohamed Hasan on his way.

Striker Almoez Ali also got a chance but the striker failed to pick up a lofty pass for a breakaway goal as Qatar continued to push the UAE defenders with repeated attacks but was unable to score the opener in the first quarter, which saw a few attacks from the UAE as well. Afif created another chance with a clever underpass to Almoez, who failed to defeat goalkeeper Hasan from a close range. The star Al Sadd striker then took matter on his own hands and dodged two defenders to score the opener with a deft flick.

Al Annabi continued to play attacking football to keep pressure on their opponents, who entered the match in a must win situation.

In a 25th minute attack led by Karim Boudiaf – who started in place of Abdulaziz Hatem – Japan referee Sato Ryuji had to consult VAR for a penalty in favour of Qatar, penalising defender Mohamed Saleh for a handball inside the circle while trying to stop raging Boudiaf.

Afif took the penalty and was again on target to make it 2-0 for Qatar, firing the ball on the right corner with goalie Hasan diving on the opposite direction.

But a double lead for Al Annabi lasted for only few minutes with UAE bouncing back with a goal on penalty by striker Mabkhout – who scored a hat-trick against Yemen.

Winger Bandar Mohammed created the chance breaking through Qatar defense and a tackle by goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb was enough for the Japanese referee to give penalty straightaway which the UAE star took perfectly.    

Meanwhile, Afif continued to lead attacks and won a free kick just outside the box and when the UAE made a counter attack, the 23-year-old was cautioned for bringing down a dangerous looking Mabkhout in stoppage time to ensure a 2-1 advantage for Qatar. Afif came close to completing his hat-trick soon after the halftime when he picked up a clever pass from captain Hasan Al Haydos nicely but was unlucky as his shot hit the top post.

The striker had to be treated after a rash tackle by UAE’s Tariq Ahmed, who was shown the yellow card soon after which Al Haydos was on target from near the penalty area after a fine display of dodging by Almoez.         

It was Sanchez’s side which remained dominant after a 3-1 lead and when Hatim replaced captain Al Haydos, he was immediately seen in action hitting a ball on target, with 20 minutes left.

But when Qatar appeared sailing towards a comfortable victory, Mabkhout, who took captain’s arm band from Ismail Salem scored his second of the match in a corner.

Afif’s heroics came to an end with three minutes left with Sanchez deciding to call back the striker, who was given a standing ovation by fans.            

Just when referee was checking the watch for a final whistle, Khouki headed home their fourth goal to complete another memorable victory over the UAE and advanced in the last-four stage of the regional event.

Source: www.thepeninsulaqatar.com

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