AFC Asian Cup 2019: Electric Almoez fires Qatar to victory over Saudi Arabia

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Almoez Ali continued his blistering form at AFC Asian Cup 2019 with a double on Thursday to hand Qatar a 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia and top spot in Group E.

With five goals already to his name ahead of the game at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, Almoez capitalised on some slack defending to open the scoring right on the stroke of halftime before adding a second with ten minutes remaining to hand the Qataris maximum points.

The result was enough to consolidate top spot for Qatar and set up a Round of 16 meeting with Iraq, while the Saudis will meet Japan.

And, after fairly comfortable victories over Lebanon and DPR Korea, Felix Sanchez Bas’ charges are shaping up as a legitimate threat after passing the toughest test in Group E with flying colours.

Having made the brightest start to the contest, they issued their first warning shot in the 16th minute when Boualem Khoukhi’s deflected effort forced Mohammed Al-Owais into a smart save.

With their first meaningful attack, Saudi Arabia were unlucky not to break the deadlock after Fahad Al-Muwallad took a searching over-the-top pass by Yahya Al-Shehri into his stride and kept his composure to fire away a shot from an acute angle, only to see it come back off the foot of the post.

Qatar were then presented with a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the 41st minute when Almoez cleverly cut inside Ali Al-Bulaihi before being unceremoniously tripped inside the box, only for Hassan Al-Haydos’ penalty to be kept out by Al-Owais with a good stop.

But, in the first minute of first-half stoppage time, Almoez provided the breakthrough as he capitalised on a moment of confusion in the Saudi defence to race through and score.

Al-Bulaihi did make amends in the 57th minute with a crucial clearance to prevent Almoez from netting into an unguarded goal, after Abdelkarim Hassan had broken free down the left and played a cross past Al-Owais.

Almoez then had the ball in the back of the net again two minutes later as he showed good strength to hold off his marker at the near post and get in ahead of the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper and glance home, but the goal was curiously disallowed despite replays showing no apparent infringement.

Nonetheless, Qatar remained in control and always looked a threat with Almoez leading the attack, and he duly delivered when he was left unmarked inside the six-yard box to meet Abdulaziz Hatem’s corner with a firm header past Al-Owais to put the result beyond doubt.

SAUDI ARABIA: Mohammed Al-Owais, Mohammed Al-Breik, Mohammed Al-Fatil, Ali Al-Bulaihi, Hamdan Al-Shamrani, Abdullah Otayf (Nooh Al-Mousa 78’), Housain Al-Mogahwi, Hattan Bahebri, Yahya Al-Shehri, Abdulrahman Ghareeb (Mohammed Al-Saiari 61’), Fahad Al-Muwallad (Ayman Al-Khulaif 75’).

QATAR: Saad Al-Sheeb, Bassam Al-Rawi, Boualem Khoukhi, Tarek Salman, Ro-Ro, Assim Madibo (Salem Al-Hajri 69’), Abdulaziz Hatem, Abdelkarim Hassan, Hassan Al-Haydos (Karim Boudiaf 72’), Akram Afif, Almoez Ali (Ahmed Alaaeldin 83’).

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