Qatar, Japan advance in Asian Cup with perfect records
AL AIN, United Arab Emirates — Qatar finished the group stage of the Asian Cup with a third straight win, beating three-time champion Saudi Arabia 2-0 on Thursday in a highly charged game amid the political tensions between the two nations.
Saudi Arabia engineered the regional boycott of Qatar along with the host United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The Qataris have held firm, denying accusations that they support extremists.
Forward Almoez Ali scored both goals, netting the opener at the Zayed Sports City Stadium with a low shot in first-half injury time and heading home the second 10 minutes from time to help his country beat Saudi Arabia at the Asian Cup for the first time and win Group E with nine points.
Just minutes before the first goal, Hasan Al Haydos missed a penalty for Qatar.
Ali, 22, is the top scorer at the tournament with seven goals and will look to extend his tally in the round of 16 against Iraq on Tuesday.
Earlier in Al Ain, four-time champion Japan rallied from a goal down to also finish the group stage with a perfect record after a 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan.
With both teams already qualified, Japan topped Group F with nine points after winning all three games to set up a knockout-stage meeting with Saudi Arabia on Monday.
Uzbekistan finished second with six points and will open the round of 16 against defending champion Australia.
Oman finished third with three points after beating Turkmenistan 3-1 to secure a spot in the knockout stage for the first time. It will play Group D winner Iran on Sunday.
In Group E In Sharjah, Lebanon got its first win, 4-0 against North Korea and both teams are eliminated.
After Japan routed Uzbekistan in their last two Asian Cup games, 4-0 in 1996 and 8-1 in 2000, it looked like a different story on Thursday in Al Ain when Eldor Shomurodov put Uzbekistan 1-0 ahead five minutes before the interval with his fourth goal of the tournament.
But Yoshinori Muto canceled out that advantage with a header just three minutes later and Tsukasa Shiotani scored the winner in the second half to complete the comeback.
In Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Muhsen Al Ghassani and Mohammed Al-Musallami scored for Oman in the second half as the team took its first three points of the tournament.
Ahmed Al Mahaijri had put Oman ahead with a free kick 20 minutes into the game before Altymyrat Annadurdyyev equalized later in the first half.