In an enthralling semi-final encounter at Al Thumama Stadium, Qatar, the reigning champions and hosts, clinched a slender triumph over Iran with a tally of 3-2, propelling them into the Asian Cup finale. Almoez Ali rose as the luminary for Qatar, netting the pivotal strike in the 82nd minute of the engagement. The match witnessed a late convolution as Iran’s Shojae Khalilzadeh was expelled with a crimson card during added time, denoting a significant impediment for the Iranian squad under the stewardship of coach Amir Ghalenoei, who encountered his inaugural defeat since his appointment last year. Qatar is now poised to contest Jordan in a keenly awaited culmination at Lusail Stadium this Saturday.
Qatar’s Coach Praises Team Effort in Thrilling Match Against Iran
Qatar’s head coach, Márquez López, expressed his delight and pride for everyone associated with Qatar’s football team, highlighting the challenging nature of the match while commending the players for their dedication and adherence to his strategic vision. “I’m extremely proud of the team, our fans, and the people of Qatar. Despite the match’s complexity, our performance was commendable, and the players spared no effort,” López remarked. He also praised the players for bringing his strategic concepts to life on the field and acknowledged their hard work as they prepare for the final hurdle in defending their title.
The match commenced as Iran swiftly secured the vanguard owing to Qatar’s mismanagement of an elongated toss-in, permitting Sardar Azmoun to execute a remarkable acrobatic volley in the tertiary minute. Iran persistently penetrated Qatar’s fortifications, nevertheless, it was Qatar who succeeded in equalizing the tally. Jassem Gaber’s extended-distance attempt ricocheted off an Iranian competitor, arcing over custodian Alireza Beiranvand and into the goal, equalizing the score to 1-1.
Qatar’s Akram Afif nearly propelled his squad into the lead with a rapid escapade, only to be thwarted by an exquisite parry from Beiranvand. Nonetheless, Afif remained undeterred; he clinched his quintet goal of the competition moments before the interval. Veering in from the port side, he discharged a meticulous strike that soared past Beiranvand’s grasp into the apex nook, exhibiting Qatar’s tenacity and strategic prowess against a formidable Iranian contingent.
Thrilling Comeback and Continued Battle
Iran exhibited remarkable resilience in the second half, earning a penalty due to a handball identified by a VAR review after Saeid Ezatolahi’s shot was deflected by Ahmed Fathy’s attempt to shield his face. Alireza Jahanbakhsh, fresh from securing a crucial win with a penalty against Japan in the quarter-finals, confidently equalized the score at 2-2 by sending the goalkeeper the wrong way with a straight shot down the middle.
Despite numerous opportunities to pull ahead with a third goal amidst the chaos in the box, it was Qatar who regained the lead. Ali, the leading scorer from the 2019 Asian Cup who had faced scrutiny for scoring just once earlier in the tournament, skillfully received a pass, executed a swift turn, and struck the ball into the bottom corner. This goal not only propelled Qatar ahead but also seemed to alleviate the immense pressure felt by the 27-year-old striker.
Heartbreak for Iran as Qatar Advances to the Final
In a match extended by 13 minutes due to stoppages, Iran’s hopes were dashed as they were reduced to 10 men. Khalilzadeh’s aggressive challenge on Afif during a counterattack led to a VAR review, upgrading his caution to a dismissal. Despite Jahanbakhsh’s last-minute effort hitting the post, Qatar clung on to secure their place in the final. Ghalenoei, Iran’s coach, expressed his remorse to the nation, taking full responsibility for the defeat. He commended his players for their dedication and labeled the loss as one of his most challenging days.