Hosts and holders Qatar fought back to defeat Palestine 2-1 and reach the Asian Cup quarter-finals on Monday, joining a Jordan side who struck twice in injury time to stun Iraq. Qatar will face the winner of Tuesday’s last-16 meeting between Uzbekistan and Thailand, the lowest-ranked team left in Doha at 113 in the world. A young girl in the crowd at the tent-like Al-Bayt Stadium north of Doha held up a sign that said “Sorry Palestine” after the final whistle.
Palestine coach Makram Daboub said he was proud of his “champions” as their best Asian Cup came to an end in the last 16.
Palestine were playing in the knockout rounds for the first time and, against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, took a surprise first-half lead.
Fresh from beating Hong Kong 3-0 for their first win in the competition’s history, Palestine made a bright start and Oday Dabbagh fired them ahead on 37 minutes.
He and his team-mates celebrated by crossing their raised arms in a handcuffs gesture to symbolise the plight of the Palestinian people.
Qatar had failed to settle in front of an expectant home crowd and the Palestinians, ranked 99 to the hosts’ 58, were dreaming of making more history by advancing against the odds.
But captain Hassan Al-Haydos came to Qatar’s rescue on the stroke of half-time when he rammed the ball past goalkeeper Rami Hamada after a corner was neatly cut back to him by Akram Afif.
Four minutes after the break Afif scored his fourth goal of the tournament, from the penalty spot, and Qatar cruised through the rest of the match.
Daboub said his players “gave everything despite the very difficult circumstances”.
“I can’t ask any more of them — they have honoured Palestinian football,” he said.
The attendance of more than 60,000 meant this 18th edition is already the most-watched Asian Cup with 1.06 million people through the turnstiles so far, beating the 1.04 million who attended in China in 2004.
– Jordan’s stunning comeback –
Jordan will meet Tajikistan in the quarter-finals after scoring twice in three minutes deep in stoppage time to beat Iraq 3-2.
There were chaotic scenes in Iraq’s post-match press conference when angry Iraqi reporters confronted the team’s Spanish coach Jesus Casas, before security stepped in to usher them away.
“It pains me what happened,” Casas said of the incident.
Jordan had a man advantage after the 77th-minute dismissal of Aymen Hussein — booked for celebrating — but looked down and out in injury time, only for Yazan Al-Arab to prod in a 95th-minute leveller.
If that was hard to believe, better was to come two minutes later for Jordan when Nizar Al-Rashdan curled in from outside the box to fire the underdogs into the last eight and spark wild celebrations.
Iraq’s heartbroken players were left flat-out on the turf, their dreams of repeating the country’s fairytale 2007 Asian Cup title somehow snatched from their grasp.
Jordan’s coach Hussein Ammouta agreed with Casas that the harsh dismissal of Hussein for a second yellow card for over-celebrating what he thought was Iraq’s winner changed the game.
“The second half belonged to them, they scored two goals and then had to continue with 10 players,” said the Moroccan.
Jordan, who held South Korea 2-2 in the group phase, next face a Tajikistan side who are one of the surprise packages of the competition on their Asian Cup debut.
On Tuesday, Jurgen Klinsmann’s South Korea play Roberto Mancini’s Saudi Arabia for the right to face Australia in the last eight.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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