Qatar confirmed their spot in the semifinals of the 24th edition of the Arabian Gulf Cup as they registered a 4-2 win over UAE in the concluding round of Group A matches at Khalifa International Stadium on Monday.
In another match of the group, Yemen held the topper of the group Iraq to a goalless draw at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.
The victory helped Qatar reach six points and book the second spot of the group to the next stage of the tournament. Iraq ensured they topped their group as they have seven points from three games.
Both teams were under pressure and chasing for a win to secure a place in the semifinals. The first real attempt came after six minutes of the first half, as Abdelkarim Hassan received a long ball pass and shot it to the net and it touched the crossbar.
Qatar’s strikers dominated their pressure at the opponents seeking the opening goal. After continuous attempts, Akram Afif who won the best Asian Player of the Year Award from AFC put his team ahead as he capitalised on a defensive lapse to transfer the ball to the net in the 18th minute. The Japanese referee Sati Reagi referred to the VAR as Karim Mudhyaif was brought by UAE’s defender inside the box in the 27th minute and he decided to award a penalty to Qatar. Akram Afif succeeded in converting the penalty in the 28th minute to give his team a 2-0 lead.
UAE counter-attacked in style as they looked to reduce the goal deficit. Bandar al Hubabi attempted in scoring attempts to face Qatar’s goalkeeper Saad Abdullah individually but the goalkeeper obstructed UAE’s forward. Accordingly, the Japanese referee decided on a penalty which was converted successfully by the historic making Ali Mabkhout, who netted the goals in the last eight matches of the team.
UAE goalkeeper Mohammed al Shamsi saved a strong ball which came from the best Asian player in the last year, Abdelkarim Hassan in the 46th minute. The first half ended with the hosts leading 2-1.
It was clear from the commencement of the second half, Qatar’s coach Sanchez instructed his players to continue attacking domination to the opponent side.
Akram Afif missed a golden chance to increase the margin as he received a perfect pass from Hassan al Haydos but his shot touched the bar in the 48th minute. Qatar’s strikers did not stop their hopes to add more goals as the top Asian Cup scorer Al Moez Ali led a scoring attempt and was thwarted in the box but Hassan al Haydos were close to him to continue the ball into the net and netted the third goal for the hosts in the 53th minute.
Coach Felix Sanchez replaced Haydos in the 68th minute with Abdulaziz Hatim. The substitute Hatim attempted some long distance shots but in the 69th minute the shot was easily parried by the UAE goalkeeper.
The Dutchman Van Marwjik, head coach of UAE, brought in Mohammed Abbas and Ali Saleh as replacement for Ismail al Hammadi and Mohammed Marzoq respectively in the 72nd minute. Ali Mabkhout was very close to score the second goal for his team as he sent a strong ball but it was saved by Qatar’s goalkeeper. Ali Mabkhout returned a minute later in another attempt to add the second goal and succeeded this time to send the ball inside the box to the net in the 78th minute.
At the last ten minutes, Qatar players managed their lead with best control at the defense side which broke all the attacks led by UAE’s top player Ali Mabkhout. Boualem Khoukhi increased the margin to 4-2 in the dying minutes as Qatar emerged deserving victors and entered the semifinals in front of an ecstatic home crowd.