Qatar edged closer to defending their AFC Asian Cup title with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Iran in the semi-final clash at Al Thumama Stadium on Wednesday, setting up a highly-anticipated showdown with dark horses Jordan in the final.
Almoez Ali, previously awarded the 2019 Most Valuable Player and top scorer of that year’s tournament, secured the winning goal just eight minutes before the final whistle, marking a dramatic turnaround for the Maroons against Team Melli, whom they had previously lost to in six consecutive matches.
Both teams made adjustments to their starting lineups, with Iran reintroducing Ehsan Hajsafi and Mehdi Taremi, while Yusuf Abdurisag and Homam Ahmed got starting positions under Marquez Lopes for Qatar.
Despite Iran’s strong start, with Sardar Azmoun scoring in the fourth minute, Qatar quickly equalized with Jassem Gaber’s deflected shot off Saeid Ezatohali. Throughout the match, Iran controlled possession while Qatar relied on counterattacks, with Akram Afif and Almoez Ali making significant contributions.
Afif’s solo effort in the 82nd minute set up Ali for his second goal of the match and 11th overall in the tournament, elevating him to second place in the all-time top scorers list. Iran fought back, with attempts by Alireza Jahanbakhsh hitting the post and a goalmouth scramble narrowly denied by Qatar’s defense.
Despite Iran’s late surge and additional time, Qatar held on for a hard-fought victory, securing their place in the final.