Asia AFC Asian Cup

Qatar Seal Group A Summit as China Crash Out

Hassan Al Haydos’ remarkable goal in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group A match against China secured a 1-0 victory for Qatar at Khalifa International Stadium on Monday. The stunning volley, delivered by the Qatari captain after coming off the bench in the 66th minute, not only extended the defending champions’ winning streak to 10 matches but also virtually eliminated Aleksandar Jankovic’s Chinese side from the competition.

Qatar, under the management of Marquez Lopez, made significant changes to their lineup, with key players like Akram Afif, Almoez Ali, and Al Haydos initially on the bench. Despite this, they maintained their perfect start to the campaign, dating back to their 2019 title triumph.

On the other hand, Jankovic’s Chinese team needed a victory to secure a spot in the last 16. However, following their inability to score in previous matches against Tajikistan and Lebanon, the Chinese struggled once again in the attacking department, leaving their fate uncertain.

The match saw early attempts from both teams, with Boualem Khoukhi sending a header wide for Qatar and China missing a chance in the seventh minute. Despite China’s attacking efforts, Qatar continued to pose a threat, with Abdulaziz Hatem’s curling strike going over the bar.

As the game approached halftime, both teams had opportunities, including a crucial save from Saad Al Sheeb denying Wei Shihao’s close-range effort. The second half witnessed additional threats from both sides, with Khalid Muneer and the Chinese strike duo missing chances.

With the game appearing to lose momentum, Lopes introduced Akram Afif and Al Haydos from the bench, leading to a spectacular combination. Afif’s well-placed corner found Al Haydos unmarked at the edge of the penalty area, and the experienced midfielder’s first-time right-foot strike sealed Qatar’s third consecutive victory in the tournament.

Accompanying Qatar out of Group A are debutants Tajikistan, who edged out Lebanon 2-1 courtesy of a remarkable turnaround in the final 10 minutes that saw Parvizdzhon Umarbayev and Nuriddin Khamrokulov cancel out Bassel Jradi’s opener with the latter scoring in the second minute of injury time. The result condemned Lebanon to last place in the group, while results in the other groups meant that China won’t be going through to the knockouts as one of the four best third-placed teams in the tournament.