Qatar keep Asian Cup dream alive with penalty shoot-out win over Uzbekistan

February 3 – In a tight match that was all square at 1-1 after extra time, Qatar beat Uzbekistan 3-2 in the penalty shoot out to keep their dream of retaining the Asian Cup title they won in 2019 alive.

They next face South Korea in the semi-finals who will be their toughest opposition of the Asian Cup so far.

The Qataris Asian Cup winning streak has now stretched to 12 games, having won all their matches on the way to the title in 2019 and all five games so far in this edition.

The Qatari hero was goalkeeper Mershaal Barsham who saved three of the five Uzbeks penalties, the last one hit straight at him by Jaloliddin Masharipov before Pedro Correia sealed the win for Qatar.

What a difference a year makes. This is the same Qatari team that disappointed at their home-hosted World Cup in 2022, exiting in the group stage, but have now taken a major step towards redeeming themselves in front of an ecstatic home crowd and a nation that is buzzing with the excitement of being just one game away from the final at the Lusail Stadium.

If they win the semi-final against Iran they equal Iran’s long-standing record of 13 consecutive Asian Cup wins.

It was heartbreak for a brave Uzbekistan who although shading possession to the Qataris outshot them during a game that could have gone either way.

If Barsham was the penalty shoot-out hero, Akram Afif was once again the architect of Qatar’s performance. His movement, touch and threat in front of goal is a level above his teammates. If Almoez Ali could caplitalise on the majestic Afif’s abilities and find his finishing form of 2019 when he broke Asan Cup scoring records, then Qatar would not have been in the shootout.

It was Afif who lead Qatar’s threat in front of goal with his first attempt fired into Utkir Yusupov’s hands in Afif.

Qatar didn’t have to wait long for the first goal and it was the Qatar team captain Hasan Al Haydos, finding space on the bye-line following an Almoez backheel, who drove into goal and fired a shot that took deflection off Ashurmatov into a flailing Yusupov who pushed the ball into his own net.

Uzbekistan responded with Otabek Shukurov’s first-time strike from inside the area being deflected over Barsham’s crossbar while Mohammed Waad blocked a sure goal from Azizbek Turgunboev.

Qatar and Uzbekistan traded blows equally up to half time with both keepers tested.

Odiljon Hamrobekov levelled for Uzbekistan in the 58th minute with a low strike.

Afif almost won the game for Qatar in extra time but the game was destined for penalties, the first time Qatar had been pushed to penalties in their unbeaten 12 game run.

Barsham’s saving of the three penalties from Rustamjon Ashurmatov, Zafarmurod Abdirakhmatov and Jaloliddin Masharipov was the difference between the sides. Pedro Correia finished the job for Qatar.

“We knew their strengths and weaknesses, for example we know they have two players who are very powerful and dangerous in attack so we tried to mitigate the threat represented by these players in an attempt to neutralise them,” said Qatar coach Bartolome Marquez.

“Our goal is to always win, one match after the other and we’ve given everything we’ve got in this short period. We believe reaching the semi-final is an achievement, but the mission is not accomplished yet.”

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1718712052labto1718712052ofdlr1718712052owedi1718712052sni@n1718712052osloh1718712052cin.l1718712052uap1718712052


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