February 2 – Jordan became the first team to claim a semi-final berth at the Asian Cup after they bundled debutants Tajikistan out in the quarter finals with a 1-0 win, courtesy of an Abdallah Nasib headed goal.
In front of their massed and vocal support in the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, Jordan continue their campaign into the semifinals, the first time they reached this stage of the competition.
If their win over Iraq with two goals in added time had a controversial element of luck involved following the sending off of Iraq’s star striker, this win was well organised and at the end uncompromisingly executed.
Tajikistan, who impressed in the group stages with a win over Lebanon and a draw against China, proved they can compete at this level. Under the passionate and often flamboyant leadership of Petr Segrt, they also showed they had the stomach for the fight, beating the UAE on penalties.
They will go home having firmly and visibly planted their flag in the vast Asian football continent.
If the first half lacked composure in the final third of both ends, it was compensated for by no shortage of competitive effort from both sides.
Jordan opened the strongest and won a corner in the first minute. Yazan dragged a good opportunity wide on three minutes. Jordan looked particularly strong on the right as their compact 4-3-3 formation often provided extra men enabling them to get behind Tajikistan’s four-man midfield.
On 13 minutes Jordan’s Mahmoud Al Mardi dribbled his way into the box on the left but couldn’t quite beat his defender. The resulting corner led to a scramble on the Tajikistan goaline that was cleared. Jordan were in the ascendance.
Takijistan were living off scraps of possession and longer range efforts. On 15 minutes they had their first chance. Shervoni Mabatshoev hit the Jordan bar from the edge of the box only for the rebound to be hit wide.
At the other end they survived a call for a penalty after Zoir Dzhuraboev looked to have pulled down Yazan Al Naimat. A close call, VAR opted for the defender.
Al Naimat had another opportunity on the half hour after a cross from Al Mardi found him on the back post but he couldn’t get enough on the ball to threaten the goal.
The chances for Jordan were mounting. Ali Olwan and Raja’ei Ayed both fired into the Tajikistan keeper Rustam Yatimov. In the last minute of added time Olwan blasted over the top from a corner, he should have done better.
While honours were even at 0-0 at half time, Jordan were leading on possession and goal intent.
It was a pattern that repeated itself at the start of the second half as Tajikistan were happy to absorb Jordan pressure, still confined to long shots in attack.
In a rare incursion into the Jordanian box, Tajikistan could have been ahead on 54 minutes after Mabatshoev stole the ball and had a clear run at goal only to push his shot wide.
With 30 minutes to go the Jordanian fans upped the volume and their players responded. Pressure resulted in a corner that found the head of Nasib, 1-0.
The goal brought immediate change to the Tajikistan approach with the team pushing higher up the pitch. On 68 minutes they had a call for penalty turned down for handball.
Now it was Jordan’s turn to absorb the attacking pressure, but for all their possession, Tajikistan could not find the pass or the pace to get behind Jordan’s defensive lines.
With the match ticking down and into seven minutes of added time roles the Jordanians soaked up the waves of Tajikistan attack.
Without that clear goal chance to prolong their stay at the party, the Tajiks’ fairy tale story came to an end.
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