Saudi Arabia to face Japan in last 16 of Asian Cup after Qatar loss
Qatar striker Almoez Ali takes his goal tally for the tournament to seven after his double at Zayed Sports City Stadium
Saudi Arabia will face four-time Asian Cup champions Japan in the last- 16 after their defeat to Qatar in the top-of the table Group E clash at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Almoez Ali scored either side of half-time to take his tournament tally to seven goals, and steer Qatar past Saudi Arabia 2-0 into a meeting with the Group D runners-up Iraq in the knockout stages.
Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais made an excellent save to keep out a penalty from Qatar captain Hasan Al Haydos three minutes before half-time, but their joy was short lived as, in first-half injury time, Almoez broke the deadlock.
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Qatar then doubled their lead with 10 minutes remaining when an unmarked Almoez buried his header after a pinpoint cross from Abdelaziz Hatim.
In an evenly-contested game, Saudi dominated large swathes of possession and carved out numerous chances to lead, and then get back into the game, but could not find the cutting edge required.
Saudi came close to breaking the deadlock twice in the first 15 minutes, but Fahad Al Muwallad’s effort crashed against left post, before Hussain Al Moqhawi, unmarked on the far post, fired one way over the crossbar.
With both teams already assured of their progress from the group, the final match was a battle for top spot and to decide who they would face in the first knockout stage.
Saudi Arabia now meet the Group F winners Japan, while Qatar play Group D runners-up Iraq, whose manager Srecko Katanec was watching the game from the stands.
Saudi Arabia went into the game having won their two previous games over North Korea 4-0 and Lebanon 2-0 while Qatar overcame Lebanon 2-0 before trouncing North Korea 6-0, and needed only a draw in their final game to top the group on goal difference.
Updated: January 18, 2019 09:17 AM