A glorious Bassam al-Rawi free-kick proved the difference Tuesrday as Qatar beat a determined Iraq 1-0 to progress through to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 quarter-finals.Last updated: January 23 2019 12:02 AM
Al-Rawi struck in the second half of a fascinating encounter, one which swung one way and then the other before being settled by the number 15's superb effort in front of a hostile crowd in Abu Dhabi.
The victory leaves Qatar on course for a first-ever continental crown and they will now meet South Korea in the last eight on Friday. South Korea edged out Bahrain 2-1 Tuesday.
Despite Iraq’s industrious start to the game, it was Qatar who spurned the first genuine opportunity when 2018 AFC Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan rattled the bar with a shot from close-range following Abdelaziz Hatim’s cross in only the fourth minute.
As Qatar continued to press in the opening stages, a well-placed Hatim came close to connecting with Hasan’s whipped delivery, only for goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb to then dive bravely at the feet of an onrushing Mohanad Ali to repel Iraq’s opening attack of the tie.
The second period began just as brightly and, after Iraq custodian Jalal Hassan had denied Akram Afif, Qatar went ahead on 62 minutes, al-Rawi curling home a delightful free-kick that Hassan could do little about.
Moments later, Hassan spread himself well to deny his rampaging Qatari namesake, before producing another fine stop to keep out a fierce Hatim drive from distance.
Iraq, though, refused to buckle, as first Ali Adnan flashed a free-kick inches past the post and then Ahmed Ibrahim's 80th minute header missed by a similarly fine margin.
It was not to be though for the 2007 champions as Qatar, with captain Hasan al-Haydos excelling throughout, valiantly held firm despite late Iraqi pressure to move ever closer to realising their title aspirations.
Qatar have scored 11 goals so far without conceding even one, making them one of the favourites to win the championship for the first time, although coach Felix Sanchez has cut down such talk, saying he believes in taking small steps.
But considering the fact that three-times champions Saudi Arabia have already crashed out and pre-tournament favourites such as Japan, Australia and South Korea have so far not hit top form, it would be only apt to suggest that Sanchez’s boys are the team with a great deal of momentum and motivation.