DOHA: Qatar coach Felix Sanchez congratulated the Qatari fans and team after the Asian champions beat the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 4-2 on Monday evening to secure semifinal berth at the 24th Arab Gulf Cup.
“It was a good game. The draw was not on our mind. It was our game and the team deserved to win,” said Felix, whose team will now face Group B winners Saudi Arabia in the second semis on December 5.
Group A toppers Iraq will meet Bahrain in the first semis on the same day.
The Asian champions kicked off on a confident note that saw them take the lead in the 20th minute through Akram Afif, who was voted as 2019 AFC Asian Player of the Year.
Akram, who was taken off in the 86th, added his second from the spot in 28th after Mohammad Marzooq handled ball and the referee resorted to VAR.
But Ali Mabkhout, who had a great game for UAE, converted from the spot two minutes later after Qatar keeper Saad Al Sheeb fouled an onrushing Bandar Mohammed.
Mabkhout looked dangerous
However, Qatar captain Hassan Al Haidous increased the lead following a melee inside the box in the 53rd.
In a sudden twist, Ali Mabkhout, who scored the tournament’s first hat-trick against Yemen, threatened with his second goal in the 77th.
But Boualem Khouki headed home a corner in the final minute of added time to kill the contest.
“When you have 40,000 fans supporting the team it gives a good feeling and motivation. It was a nice game for us. We are happy as we could achieve our target to qualify for the semis,” added Felix.
The hosts ended their group engagements with two wins and a defeat while the Emiratis bowed out of the competition after having lost two games and just a win against Yemen.
Abdelkarim Hassan, hat-trick hero against Yemen, gave a hint of Qatar’s endless energy that were to come in the evening’s first game in the fifth minute.
The left-back outpaced UAE defender Mohammed Saleh Almenhali and the goalkeeper, but by the time he could reach for the ball it had already crossed the touch line.
“I think in all the group games were different. We were upset after the first match, but the players showed good level. They tried their best after the defeat against Iraq,” added the Spaniard.
Rough tackles on Akram
The UAE played their hearts out, but couldn’t really quell the Qatari challenge with the hosts enjoyed the upper hand in the match.
With Akram in great form it was expected that the opponent defenders will resort to rough tackles.
Tariq Ahmed Al Hammadi charged Akram’s prized right foot five minutes after half-time with the Al Sadd striker grinning in pain. Tariq duly received a yellow card.
Akram’s right foot was once again targeted in the 80th minute, this time Khalifa Al Hammadi was booked for the offence.
“We had to take him (Akram) off as we wanted to protect him, and also he received a yellow card,” said Sanchez.
Follow Mohammad Aminul Islam on Twitter: @mdamin