AL KHOR: Defending champions Qatar will face the Islamic Republic of Iran in Wednesday’s semi-final of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023after Marquez Lopes’ side handed Uzbekistan a 3-2 penalty shoot-out defeat at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday following a 1-1 draw.
Goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham saved spot-kicks from Rustamjon Ashurmatov, Zafarmurod Abdirakhmatov and Jaloliddin Masharipov to set Pedro Correia up to score the winning penalty and take the hosts into the last four.
The shoot-out win came after the Qataris had taken the lead in the 27th minute when captain Hassan Al Haydos shot from a tight angle and Utkir Yusupov slapped the ball over his own goal line but Odiljon Hamrobekov levelled in the 58th minute with a low strike.
Neither side was able to claim a second in what remained of regulation time or in 30 minutes of extra-time to take the game to penalties.
Ashurmatov and Almoez Ali had seen their efforts in the second round of spot-kicks saved before Almahdi Ali skied his attempt high over the bar but Barsham’s saves from Abdirakhmatov and Masharipov made the difference for Qatar.
It was a tense end to a game in which Akram Afif once again carried much of the defending champions’ threat, stinging Yusupov’s hands in the 11th minute, but it was the Qatar team captain who breeched the Uzbekistan defence as the hosts went in front.
Al Haydos was released into space by an astute Almoez Ali backheel and the midfielder drove along the bye-line before hitting a shot that took just enough of a deflection off Ashurmatov to force Yusupov to push the ball into his own net.
The Uzbeks responded with Otabek Shukurov’s first-time strike from inside the area that was deflected over Barsham’s crossbar while Mohammed Waad made a goal-saving block when Azizbek Turgunboev looked destined to score.
Yusupov made amends for his earlier error by keeping out Almahdi Ali’s header and Turgunboev threatened again as the half drew to a close, Barsham blocking his attempt to score with a strike on the run at the goalkeeper’s near post.
Uzbekistan continued to probe after the interval, Masharipov seeing his free-kick palmed clear by Barsham while Qatari defender Fathy narrowly avoided putting the ball in his own goal. Masharipov was just off target with a 55th minute shot from distance.
Three minutes later the equaliser came as Hamrobekov played the ball towards Oston Urunov, receiving possession again on the edge of the area with the space to score in the far corner with a left-foot shot across Barsham.
Abbosbek Fayzullaev twisted in front of the Qatar defence deep into injury time to create the space to shoot across the face of goal while Afif almost won the game for Qatar when he bent a stunning strike inches wide of Yusupov’s left post.
The Qataris went closer still five minutes into extra-time when substitute Abdel Aziz Hatim hit a scuffed shot from 25 yards that clipped the top of the crossbar, leaving the game to go to penalties and for Barsham to claim the plaudits.