Qatar beat Japan 3-1 to win Asian Cup

Qatar beat Japan 3-1 to win Asian Cup
Afif slots hoe the penalty that confirmed Qatar as Asian Cup champions. (AFP)
Updated 03 February 2019

Qatar beat Japan 3-1 to win Asian Cup

Qatar beat Japan 3-1 to win Asian Cup
  • Qatar stun four-time champions Japan in Abu Dhabi.
  • Almoez Ali becomes record scorer in competition with nine goals.

ABU DHABI: Qatar beat Japan 3-1 to win their first Asian Cup sparked by a fine goal from Almoez Ali.
Sudan-born striker Ali, whose eligibility to play for Qatar has been questioned, scored with an acrobatic bicycle kick after just 12 minutes before Abdelaziz Hatim curled in a second and Akram Afif converted a VAR-assisted penalty to give the Gulf side the title.
Qatar survived a scare at 2-0 when Takumi Minamino pulled one back on 69 minutes, only for Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov to award the Maroons a penalty on review for a handball by Japan captain Maya Yoshida.
Ali became the first player to score nine goals at a single Asian Cup after only being cleared to play just hours before kickoff following a UAE protest over his eligibility.
Qatar had never before gone beyond the Asian Cup quarterfinals but they scored 16 unanswered goals coming into the final and kept a record six clean sheets.
Japan, meanwhile, had never lost an Asian Cup final, winning the last of their record four titles in 2011.
But the Blue Samurai were soon behind thanks to Ali’s opener. Found by Afif, Ali flicked the ball up to himself before launching into an overhead volley that left Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda helpless as it flew in off the post.
Qatar doubled their lead in the 27th minute after yet another Afif assist — his 10th of the tournament — as Hatim bent in a left-foot shot from distance.
Japan, whose only previous Asian Cup defeat by Qatar came 31 years ago, mustered little of note, much to the chagrin of their colorful fans among a crowd of 36,000 — several sporting fancy dress, including one hardy soul in an inflatable sumo suit.
That all changed when Minamino breached Qatar’s defense for the first time this tournament with a delicate chip after Hatim had blazed over from close range.
But moments later Afif ended Japan’s resistance from the spot to complete the triumph for Qatar.