Qatar survive Myanmar comeback, reach AFC U-19 final
Yangon, Myanmar: Qatar will face DPR Korea in the final of the AFC U-19 Championship after edging out hosts Myanmar 3-2 after extra-time in their semi-final at Thuwunna Youth Training Centre Stadium on Monday.
Almoez Ali had given the West Asians the lead in first-half stoppage time but Myanmar had their home fans shaking the stands as first Aung Thu netted on the hour-mark and then Nyein Chan Aung scored shortly afterwards.
However, on 75 minutes Akram Afif’s long-range free kick brought the scores level once more and took the tie to extra-time. And in the first minute of the additional 30 added on, defender Serigne Abdou was on target to restore Qatar’s lead and take them onwards to the tournament’s climax.
Having now equalled their tournament best second place – from the 1980 edition in Thailand, when the competition used a round-robin format – Qatar will face DPR Korea in Thursday’s final after the three-time winners earlier recorded a 5-0 win over Uzbekistan.
Undefeated ahead of the tie, Qatar had the game’s first shot on goal on the third minute as Saltan Al Brake’s header found Ali lurking at the back-post and the striker’s close-range effort needed a firm block from Myanmar goalkeeper Myo Min Latt.
On 12 minutes Ahmed Al Sadi then gave warning of his expertise from dead-ball situations with a curling effort from 20-yards out that brought forth another flying save from Myo Min Latt, as he flung himself to his left to turn the ball behind.
And Myo Min Latt was seemingly on a one-man mission to deny Qatar as after Ali had been sent through on goal by Tarek Salman, the stopper pulled off a stunning save, diving low to his right to divert the shot wide.
But as the first period reached stoppage time, Qatar took the lead their pressure had long threatened.
Abdullah Al Ahrak’s whipped in corner from the leftside was met by Ali, once again positioned at the back-post, and this time Myo Min Latt could not keep him out as the forward forced the ball home.
Following the re-start, the hosts came out in a positive frame of mind and 10 minutes in Kyaw Min Oo cleverly directed Aung Thu’s 25-yard freekick goalwards with a skillful flick of his boot, although Qatar keeper Yousof Hassan read the danger and collected adroitly.
Aung Thu’s next contribution, however, was stunning. Receiving the ball just to the left of the semi-circle, the forward shimmied onto his right foot, made space, and let fly with a sublime curler that crashed off the underside of the crossbar and bounced down into the net.
And three minutes later the already fever-pitch crowds in the stands at Thuwunna Youth Training Centre Stadium were taken to deafening new levels of decibels as goalscorer Aung Thu turned provider as his curling free-kick met the head of Nyein Chan Aung who slammed in his third goal of the tournament.
But with a quarter of an hour of the tie remaining, first-half substitute Afif restored parity for Qatar with a sweetly struck free-kick from 25 yards out that zipped past Myo Min Latt’s outstretched hand and found the bottom right-hand corner.
And although the remaining fifteen minutes could not break the deadlock, in the very first minute of extra-time, Qatar took back the lead as a short corner routine saw Al Ahrak float in a cross from the left flank and find Ali who directed the ball back across for Abdou to head the West Asians in front once more.
The second-half of extra-time almost had a similarly explosive opening as Afif burst through on goal only to see his dink over Myo Min Latt turned onto the crossbar and away by a last-ditch slide from Thiha Htet Aung.
Myanmar threw everything at Qatar in the final minutes of the tie and Maung Maung Soe forced Hassan into a match-winning brace of saves right at the death that were as important as the earlier goal, as Qatar booked their place in Thursday’s final.