Al Rawi fires Qatar into Asian Cup quarters
Abu Dhabi: A glorious Bassam Al Rawi free-kick proved the difference on Tuesday as Qatar beat a determined Iraq 1-0 to progress through to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 quarter-finals.
Al Rawi struck in the second half of a fascinating encounter, one which swung one way and then the other before being settled by the number 15’s superb effort at an atmospheric Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
The victory leaves Qatar on course for a first-ever Continental crown and they will now meet Korea Republic in the last eight on Friday.
Despite Iraq’s industrious start to the game, it was Qatar who spurned the first genuine opportunity when 2018 AFC Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan rattled the bar with a shot from close-range following Abdelaziz Hatim’s cross in only the fourth minute.
As Qatar continued to press in the opening stages, a well-placed Hatim came close to connecting with Hasan’s whipped delivery, only for goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb to then dive bravely at the feet of an onrushing Mohanad Ali to repel Iraq’s opening attack of the tie.
2000 and 2011 quarter-finalists Qatar were to end an absorbing first half in the ascendancy as Hasan’s deflected cross brushed an upright and Al Rawi headed Akram Afif’s corner agonisingly wide of the target.
The second period began just as brightly and, after Iraq custodian Jalal Hassan had denied Akram Afif, Qatar went ahead on 62 minutes, Al Rawi curling home a delightful free-kick that Hassan could do little about.
Iraq, though, refused to buckle, as first Ali Adnan flashed a free-kick inches past the post and then Ahmed Ibrahim’s 80th minute header missed by a similarly fine margin.
It was not to be though for the 2007 champions as Qatar, with captain Hasan Al Haydos excelling throughout, valiantly held firm despite late Iraqi pressure to move ever closer to realising their title aspirations.