Afif’s penalty hattrick drives Qatar to 3-1 win over battling Jordan and retention of Asian Cup title

By Paul Nicholson in Lusail Stadium

February 10 – Qatar retained their Asian Cup title with an Akram Afif hattrick of penalties in front of 86,465 mainly Qatari fans in the Lusail Stadium.

It was an astonishing night of celebration for the Qataris who so desperately wanted a tournament win on home soil after the disappointment of the 2022 World Cup performance.

In Afif they had the player to deliver it and in VAR they had technology to confirm. It was another accomplished performance from Afif who has been the outstanding player of this tournament, picking up the man of the match award and the most valuable player of the tournament. Without who Qatar would likely have struggled.

For Jordan it was a brave finish to a quite brilliant campaign of giant killing.

Jordan have been one of the biggest stories of this Asian Cup.

Having finished third in their group they scored two goals in added time to knock Iraq out in the quarter finals before beating one of the hot favourites South Korea in the semis.

All done with just one player in their squad playing in Europe. But then none of the Qataris play in Europe either.

Both coaches picked a more attacking line-up than they had done for their semi-finals

Qatar coach Bartolome Marquez made just one from change, bringing in captain Hassan Al Haydos up front for defender Pedro Miguel.

Jordan’s Hussein added Ali Olwan to his frontline alongside the freescoring duo of Mousa Tamari and Yazan Al Naimat.

Qatar had the most meaningful start. Yusuf Abdurisag looking sharp on right and the silky Afif was causing all kinds of trouble for the Jordanians on the left

On six minutes Afif had his first real foray into the box but couldn’t lift the ball past Jordan keeper Yazeed Abulaila. The resulting corner was hammered over to bar from the edge of the box.

A minute later Afif again had the ball in the box and cheekily nutmegded his defender with a sidefooted shot that was easily gathered.

On 11 minutes Almoez Ali was sent through with a ball over the top but was too ponderous and fluffed the opportunity.

Jordan’s threat was coming consistently through Tamari on the right. Jordan were getting men forward but leaving themselves vulnerable to counter attacks.

Al Naimat had first shot from edge of box, punched easily, though not convincingly away by Meshaal Barsham.

In 20th minute Qatar were ahead. Afif drove into the box on the left and was clipped by Almahadi Ali. The referee pointed straight to the spot, VAR agreed, and Afif stepped up and hits the ball past Abulaila’s right hand – 1-0.

On 32 minutes Qatar were almost two up. An Afif corner was met in the middle of the box by Al Haydos but Abulaila palmed it over.

On 35 minutes Qatar had had five attempts on goal to Jordan’s one.

With the clock ticking into six minutes of added time Afif took a knock on his thigh. Suddenly panic in the Qatari ranks as a stretcher removed their star man from play. But like in all good dramas, he was soon back in the action, and to remarkable effect.

Jordan pressed from the restart and a ball into Tamari in the box was sidefooted wide. Two minutes later Tamari received a cross from the left but hit the ball over. Jordan were down but they weren’t out at the half time bell.

Jordan opened the second half with more controlled possession in the Qatari half. A 53 minute corner slipped past Barsham’s post. The Qataris were sitting deeper and letting Jordan run at them.

On 56 minutes another Jordan move down the right found Al Naimat in the box who flicked the ball up and attempted an overhead kick.

A rare attack from the Jordan left saw the ball worked across to an incoming Ehsan Haddad who has his shot saved. Barsham was in action again from the corner.

On the right of midfield Noor Al Rawabdeh was in perpetual motion, and just missed a tap in a crowded six yard box. Possession had now switched to being 55% in favour of the Jordanians.

On 66 minutes the pressure paid off. A cross from the right was gathered by Al Naimat who hammered the ball past Barsham – 1-1.

Qatar had to find a response and they did, four minutes later. The referee waved play on after Ismael Mohammed was tripped in the box. VAR pulled the play back, the referee consulted the screen and pointed to the spot.

Up stepped Afif for his and Qatar’s second of the game.

Al Naimat almost levelled immediately for Jordan but his header went over.

Qatar weren’t going to sit back a second time and were suddenly playing with a lot more urgency.  On 81 minutes Afif forced a save from Abulaila from a free kick just outside the box.

Jordan seemed to be running out of luck.

With the clock kicking into 13 minutes of added time Afif was through on goal but brought down by Abulaila. The first decision looked to be an offside given by the referee but VAR intervened, the referee reviewed and pointed to the spot again.

Up stepped Afif for his hat trick of penalties, this time htting the ball to Abulaila’s left – 3-1.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1718425682labto1718425682ofdlr1718425682owedi1718425682sni@n1718425682osloh1718425682cin.l1718425682uap1718425682

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