In an exhilarating Asian Cup semi-final on Wednesday, hosts and defending champions Qatar narrowly defeated Iran 3-2, securing their place in the final against first-time finalists Jordan. The decisive goal was netted by striker Ali in the 82nd minute during an intense match at Al Thumama Stadium, propelling Qatar towards their pursuit of a second title. Iran experienced a setback as Shojae Khalilzadeh received a late red card in stoppage time, marking the first defeat for coach Amir Ghalenoei since assuming charge last year.
In a dramatic start to the game, Iran took the lead after just 13 minutes when Sardar Azmoun capitalized on Qatar’s inability to deal with a long throw into their box to hook an acrobatic effort into the net. The stadium erupted soon after, but Qatar leveled in the 17th minute when Jassem Gaber’s shot on goal took a massive deflection off Saeid Ezatolahi to loop over goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Qatar’s Akram Afif made it 2-1 before half-time with his superb strike, jinking his way into the penalty area to curl a beautiful effort past Beiranvand. But Iran returned with renewed vigor for the second half and pulled level again when Jahanbakhsh converted a spot kick after a VAR review ruled that Ahmed Fathy had blocked a shot with his hand.
Ali, struggling to score in this tournament, found his groove with the game entering its closing stages. The top scorer in 2019 picked out the bottom corner with a composed finish from close range after being fed by Abdulaziz Hatem. Afif almost spoiled the party when he hit the crossbar with a header in the 88th minute, but Qatar held on to clinch victory and set up a clash with Jordan in Saturday’s final.
Qatar is bidding to become only the fifth team in history to win back-to-back titles. They are in their third final, having previously beaten South Korea and Japan. But the reigning champions will be underdogs against Jordan, who shocked two-time finalists South Korea to reach the final in Lusail Stadium.
The final will also see a rematch of the 2015 semi-final, won by Qatar after Jahanbakhsh’s late winner canceled out Iran’s equalizer from a penalty. Both sides have the same line-ups as in their quarter-final encounters. Jordan coach Hussein Ammouta made one change to his starting XI, bringing in Yahya Al Ghassani for the injured Ali Mubarak.