Qatar roared back into the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup contention with a thumping 6-0 win over Yemen at the Khalifa International Stadium.
The Asian champions bounced back from a shock 1-2 loss to Iraq in their opening match on Tuesday, with a clinical performance Friday.
Abdelkarim Hassan started the rout with a brace, before he completed his hat-trick, while Almoez Ali, Abdullah al-Ahrak and Akram Afif found the net once each.
Felix Sanchez’s men will now take on the United Arab Emirates in their final Group A match on Monday, in what is now a winner-takes-all showdown. A draw against UAE would ensure a semi-final spot for the hosts as they have a better goal advantage.
Iraq, who earlier in the day beat UAE 2-0 for their second consecutive victory, became the first team to seal their place in the semi-final. Iraq now can finish as Group A table-toppers with a victory over Yemen on Monday.Before the kick-off, Qatar players stood in unison with a fag in support of their teammate Bassam al-Rawi, who underwent a surgery to his leg, which he injured during Iraq match.
Al-Rawi, watching from his hospital bed, would have been proud of his mates.
It was a must-win game for Qatar and Yemen, unarguably the weakest side among eight teams in the tournament, bore the brunt of the hosts’ attack. Qatar raided Yemen’s goal from the very first minute, but they were found wanting in the final third. That was until Hassan opened the scoring in the 30th minute after which the goals rained down at the Khalifa Stadium.
After a Boudiaf header was not completely cleared by Yemen midfielder Nasser al-Gahwashi, Hassan took full advantage of the blunder to tap in for Qatar’s opener. In the 32nd minute, Boualem Khoukhi spurned an easy chance after he was late to get a touch into Afif’s cross.
Hassan, however, got into the scoresheet in the 37th minute with a thunderous left-footed strike from 30 yards, that brushed Yemen goalkeeper Saleem Saeed’s right hand but had enough power to smash into the net. Qatar had couple of chances but went into the break with a two-goal lead.
Upon resumption, Yemen threatened a comeback but a dangerous move from Omar al- Dahi was thwarted by Khoukhi inside the box. It was a wake-up call that Qatar needed as they went into overdrive.
Almoez, who has struggled in recent matches, got a much-needed boost with a goal in the 57th minute. The Asian Cup MVP exchanged a 1-2 pass from Afif, before unleashing a left-footer past a hapless Saeed.
Qatar were awarded a penalty in the 72nd minute, after al-Gahwashi handled a ball from Ismail Mohamed in the box. Afif, Qatar’s designated penalty-taker, generously handed the ball to Hassan, who then completed his hat-trick.
Youngster al-Ahrak then made it 5-0 with the substitute scoring from outside the box. Afif, meanwhile, also had enough time for himself to score in the 89th minute and complete a dominating win.
Qatar coach Sanchez was a happy man as it was exactly the kind of response he expected after his side’s defeat to Iraq. Against Yemen, Qatar bossed the contest with 20 shots fired, of which 11 was on target. They also enjoyed a whopping 79% possession. Now Sanchez will hope for a similar performance against UAE, as the Qatar eye their fourth Gulf Cup title.
By Sahan Bidappa
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2020