Qatar edges Iran to face Jordan in AFC Asian Cup final
DOHA — Akram Afif and Almoez Ali shone as defending champion Qatar pipped Iran 3-2 in the AFC Asian Cup semifinal.
Ali’s late winner lifted the 2019 Asian Cup winner into the final, where it will face Jordan on Saturday at the Lusail Stadium.
“We have one final step left to accomplish our target,” said Qatar head coach Marquez Lopez.
Iran broke the deadlock just four minutes into the match, when Sardar Azmoun smashed home a spectacular overhead kick after Qatar defenders failed to clear a long throw-in from right, reports Xinhua.
However, the hosts didn’t wait long to level. In the 17th minute, Jassem Gaber’s shot from outside the box deflected over Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand following a backpass by Afif.
Afif continued his dominant performance and scored a sensational solo goal in the 43rd minute to put Qatar 2-1 in front as he cut into the penalty area from the left to unleash a thunderous right-footed shot into the back of the net.
With five goals, Afif is now just one behind Iraq’s Aymen Hussein in the race for the Golden Boot.
Iran had a quick comeback in the 51st minute, with Alireza Jahanbakhsh converting a penalty after a VAR review ruled that Ahmed Fathy had handled the ball.
Despite Iran creating more chances in the second half, Qatar retook the lead in the 82nd minute, when Abdulaziz Hatem laid the ball to an unmarked Ali, who slotted home into the far corner.
In stoppage time, Afif was brought down by Shoja Khalilzadeh during a fast break, and the Iranian player was sent off after a VAR check.
Playing with one man down, a resilient Iran came close to a last-minute equalizer, but Jahanbakhsh’s low strike hit the post.
“I want to apologize to the Iranian people because we had the responsibility to make them happy. Our performance in the second half was the one of the best we ever had. We missed many chances,” said Iran head coach Amir Ghalenoei.
“But this is football and if you don’t take your chances then you will be punished,” he added.