Qatar secures a trip to the AFC U-19 Championship semi-finals for the first time in 24 years, after the West Asians defeated China 4-2 in an action- packed quarter-final which saw three players being sent off at a saturated Wunna Thekidi Stadium yesterday.
Qatar also booked a place in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time since they hosted the tournament in 1995.
Ahmed al-Sadi headed home his fifth goal of the tournament in the fifth minute. At the stroke of half-time, first-half substitute Akram Afif was brought down in the area by Zhou Yuchen, earning the goalkeeper a red card and the forward a penalty which he converted.
Rain greeted the second half and with it came a goal from Gui Hong that gave China a glimmer of hope in the 53rd minute.
Qatar captain Ahmad Moein then struck from long range to put the score at 3-1 before Wei Jingzong’s penalty conversion that saw defender Assim Madibo dismissed.
However, there was still time for one more goal as Almoez Ali ended any China defiance in stoppage time.
Wei Shihao was also sent off shortly before the final whistle.
Felix Sanchez Bas’ side will next travel to Yangon for Monday’s semi-final meeting with hosts Myanmar.
“The goal was to reach the World Cup playing good, attacking-based possession football,” said the Spaniard. “I think we have less pressure going into the semis. We can try and play our game with no pressure and expectations.”
Qatar’s Spanish coach couldn’t have asked for a better start to the quarter-final, though, as Abdullah al-Ahrak’s right-wing cross just five minutes into the tie was headed in by al-Sadi, steaming in at the back post, for his fifth goal in four games.
Tang Shi went close to giving an immediate reply as he burst into the penalty area from the left-flank and forced goalkeeper Yousof Hassan into a hasty block at his near post.
Forward Ali could have doubled the Qatar lead with three minutes of the half remaining after leaving Gao Zhunyi for dead and surging into the penalty area, but rather than try to score himself, he unselfishly squared the pass for al-Sadi who was dispossessed by a backtracking defender.
But Qatar only needed three more minutes before they added a second, and on the stroke of half-time, substitute Afif, who had barely been on the pitch for a few minutes, sprinted through the centre and was fell by Zhou inside the penalty area, earning the custodian his marching orders and Afif a penalty, which he scored with a composed finish.
Although the West Asians began the second period with a one-man advantage, it was China that came out stronger as heavy rain fell.
Just eight minutes in, they had halved the deficit through Gui, who tore down the left side of the penalty area before cutting back onto his right, sending two defenders sliding past, and firing past Hassan.
Renewed hope for the East Asians lasted just five minutes, though, as Moein’s effort from 25 yards out skimmed off the sodden turf and past replacement goalkeeper Jia Xinyao into the far corner to restore Qatar’s two-goal cushion.
But with just five minutes of the action-packed tie remaining, China were back on level in numbers on the pitch as Madibo received a red card for his foul on Lyu Pin inside the box and Wei Jingzong converted the penalty to make the score 3-2.
Any hopes of a tense finish to the tie were ended by Ali, however, as he powered into the box at the
other end and despite seeing his efforts saved twice by Jia, China’s failure to get the ball clear proved their undoing as on his third attempt Ali rifled home.
Frustration overcame Boavista starlet Wei Shihao at the end as he received his second yellow card to leave China with nine men as the final whistle blew and the Qatari celebrations began.