Qatar await the winner of Algeria-Morocco match in last four
Qatar powered past a hapless United Arab Emirates 5-0 with a ruthless first half display to seal their place in the FIFA Arab Cup semi-finals.
The packed Friday crowd at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor witnessed Qatar’s golden generation of footballers put on a breathtaking display in the quarter-finals. But the UAE, who were gunning for a revenge for their 0-4 thrashing by Qatar in the Asian Cup semis in 2019, were dreadful in the first half.
The Whites were a different side to the one that were hammered two years back in Abu Dhabi but the scars seemed to remain fresh on the players’ minds.
The imposing Al Bayt Stadium, which had a small number of UAE fans, also made it difficult for the young visiting side.
It was such a one-sided contest in the first half, that Qatar coach Felix Sanchez chose to sit in the dugout and chat with his assistants even as players went down the tunnel to the dressing room for a breather. It’s very rare when a coach does not need to talk to his players at half-time but Sanchez was afforded that luxury by his team. It was a night where anything Qatar players touched turned into gold, also in part thanks to the largesse by the UAE players, who gave away two penalties and also committed defensive howlers at will.
“We will celebrate this victory because it’s a great result for us. The team is showing improvement after every match and now we need to focus on the semi-final,” said Sanchez, with African heavyweights Algeria or Morocco waiting for them in the semi-finals.
Sanchez fielded a full-strength side yesterday, after playing a second-string side for most part against Iraq in their final group game on Monday. With Pedro Miguel missing due to injury, Abdelkarim Hassan slotted in as one of the three centre-backs, with Ismail Mohamed started as a right wing-back.
Akram Afif and Almoez Ali, who made a late substitute appearance against Iraq and also bagged a goal each, pressed the UAF defence high from the beginning and it didn’t take long for them to crumble.
In the sixth minute, UAE defender Mohanad Salem failed to clear a back pass as Almoez latched on to the ball and laid it off to Afif, whose shot deflected off Ali Salmin for an own goal.
It was a perfect start to calm the nerves of Qatari players, as the UAE players struggled to build up momentum. The UAE players enjoyed more than 70% possession in the first half, preferring to build it up from the back, which played into Qatar’s hands.
The hosts simply chose to sit back and counter-attack with Almoez and Afif lethal upfront. The Qatari forwards, however, didn’t have to do anything extraordinary as another clumsy defensive mistake from the UAE’s Mahmoud Khamis gifted them the second goal.
In the 27th minute, Khamis handled the ball in the box off a cross from Ismail Mohamed, with Almoez putting the penalty into the net to double the advantage. For the UAE, all hell broke loose thereafter as Qatar smashed three goals in 12 minutes.
In the 36th minute, Almoez was brought down by UAE captain and goalkeeper Ali Khaseif, with Boualem Khoukhi slotting the penalty to the top corner. Eight minutes later, Abdulaziz Hatem’s thunderous strike off a pass from Afif made it 4-0 before Almoez found the net again in stoppage time.
With five goals, Qatar’s player’s intensity did drop off a bit while UAE did put on a much better display. Khoukhi went closest to scoring in the second half but Sanchez biggest worry will be his star forward Afif limping off late in the second after picking up a knock.
Qatar’s defender Boualem Khoukhi (right) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the UAE during the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 quarter-final at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor yesterday. (AFP)
Last updated: December 11 2021 01:49 AM