Doha, February 07, 2024, The Europe Today: Hosts and defending champions Qatar secured a nail-biting 3-2 victory against Iran in a gripping Asian Cup semi-final at Al Thumama Stadium on Wednesday. The thrilling encounter witnessed striker Almoez Ali scoring the decisive goal in the 82nd minute, propelling Qatar into the title clash with Jordan at Lusail Stadium on Saturday.
In a back-and-forth battle, Iran took an early lead as Sardar Azmoun scored with an overhead kick in the third minute. However, Qatar responded with an equalizer when Jassem Gaber’s deflected shot found the net, leveling the score against the run of play.
Qatar’s Akram Afif added to the excitement with his fifth goal of the tournament just before halftime, putting his team ahead with a powerful shot into the top corner. Iran, displaying renewed determination in the second half, earned a penalty through VAR after a handball incident. Alireza Jahanbakhsh, the hero from the quarter-final against Japan, converted the penalty to make it 2-2.
The pivotal moment came in the 82nd minute when Almoez Ali, under pressure to deliver, controlled a pass and fired a precise shot into the bottom corner, giving Qatar the lead once again. The match witnessed further drama as Iran’s Shojae Khalilzadeh received a red card in stoppage time, reducing them to 10 men.
Despite desperate attempts by Iran, including a late effort by Jahanbakhsh hitting the post, Qatar managed to hold on to their lead and secure a spot in the final. Qatar coach Marquez Lopez praised the team’s effort, stating, “The players implemented my philosophy and ideas on the pitch so they deserve my thanks… Now we have one final step left to defend our title.”
Iran’s coach, Amir Ghalenoei, expressed regret over the defeat, apologizing to the Iranian people and taking responsibility. The intense match showcased the determination and skill of both teams, setting the stage for an anticipated final showdown between Qatar and Jordan.