By Paul Nicholson in Doha
February 7 – Qatar overcame Iran 3-2 at the Al Thumama stadium in Doha in another pulsating semi-final in an Asian Cup that has provided drama after drama.
A match that at times was lacking in finesse was more than made up for by commitment at both ends of the pitch.
Inevitably it was a goal and two assists from the mercurial Akram Afif that drove Qatar to what in the end looked like being an unlikely victory as they weathered wave after wave of Iranian attack. Jassem Gaber scored Qatar’s first goal, Afif the second and then Almoez Ali at last found some form at the right time to score the winner.
The opportunity to have made it to their first Asian Cup final since 1976 will not be lost on Iran. In the end they wasted chance after chance, hit the post twice, peppered the Qatar box with cross after cross, but just did not get the run of the ball in their favour.
Qatar’s win equals Iran’s record Asian Cup winning run of 13 games. Qatar will set a new record of 14 if they beat Jordan in the final at Lusail Stadium on Saturday.
Jordan will probably prefer to be playing Qatar than Iran, but the Qataris will start as favourites to retain their Asian Cup title. With much of the same team that played at their home-hosted World Cup in 2022, the joy of this win is very different to their disappointment at exiting at the Group stage in 2022. Qatar will now have a major final to play in their showcase Lusail Stadium.
Both coaches made two changes from the starting line-ups that saw them through their semi-finals. Iran’s Amir Ghalenoei brought back striker Mehdi Taremi, while Bartolomé Márquez left out the influential Hassan Al Haydos.
It took just three minutes for Iran to open the scoring. A long throw from Alireza Jahanbakhsh was headed on to Sardar Azmoun who found the back of the net with a spectacular overhead kick.
It was the worst start possible for the Qataris but it sparked an immediate reaction.
From the restart…
Source link : https://www.insideworldfootball.com/2024/02/07/iran-left-dumbstruck-brilliant-afif-steers-qatar-asian-cup-final/
Author : Paul Nicholson
Publish date : 2024-02-07 20:14:09
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