(MENAFN- The Peninsula)
#Arab Cup 2021 By Fawad Hussain | The Peninsula
Doha: Seasoned trio of Almoez Ali, Akram Afif and Hassan Al Haydos came off the bench to help Asian champions Qatar defeat Iraq 3-0 and eliminate the four-time winners from the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 at the Al Bayt Stadium last night.
The home team's victory against Iraq also took Oman to the quarter-finals as the Branko Ivanković-coached side blanked Bahrain 3-0 in the other Group A match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Iraq, who needed a win against Qatar to advance to the knockout stage, finished third in the group with two points while Bahrain concluded their tournament on the bottom with just one point.
Substitutes Almoez (82nd minute), Afif (84th) and Al Haydos (90+4) gave the Asian champions late goals after head coach Felix Sanchez started with a youthful side retaining only Bassam Al Rawi and Abdelaziz Hatem in the playing XI.
Following their third consecutive win, Qatar will go into the Friday's quarter-final against the UAE at the Al Bayt Stadium with a lot of confidence.
UAE confirmed their last-eight berth after finishing behind Tunisia in Group B.
Enjoying a massive crowd support last night, Qatari youngsters showed good energy but Iraq attacked early through Mohammed Qasim, who entered the box but did not find support.
Mohammed Muntari was giving Željko Petrović's side scare and sneaked into the box before he was stopped by a defender in the 15th minute, with VAR declaring the tackle was fine.
Playing his first match of the tournament, Qatari goalkeeper Yousef Hassan made a good save from Bashar Resan's lob on target in the 22nd minute.
While the home team was maintaining around 70 percent possession, they were yet to pose threat to Iraq, who had two shots on target by the half-hour mark.
Desperate for a victory, Iraq were pushing for goals with repeated attacks but the young Qatari defenders were doing well to avoid the damage. The home side was also lucky when Yaser Kasim's hit struck the goalpost with Hassan nowhere to be seen, seven minutes before halftime.
Qatar responded with attacks late in the first session with some good moves but the deadlock persisted as players walked into the dugout.
Four minutes into the second half, Qatar Musab Kheder's brilliant header from a difficult angle – off a fine cross by Al Duhail forward Ismaeel Mohammad - was put away by Iraq goalkeeper Fahad Talib.
A few minutes later Muntari in a solo effort launched an attack but his finish was too easy for Talib as Qatar were in driving seat taking Iraq under pressure with their traditional attacking style.
At one hour-mark, Sanchez sent in Boualem Khoukhi and Khalid Muneer by calling the duo of Bassam and Ahmed Alaaeldin back.
Muntari's fine volley following a 67th minute corner just sailed over the bar before Sanchez sent in Al Haydos and Almoez.
Al Haydos soon made his presence felt with a strike from a distance, hitting the bar in the 71st minute.
Almoez heroics followed after exchange of attacks between the two sides as the striker made a solo run defeating several defenders to put the ball past the Iraqi goalkeeper.
Afif, who was introduced in the match in 83rd minute, took only a minute to score, converting a fine ball from near the penalty spot.
The striker then assisted Al Haydos, who sealed a convincing victory for the hosts with a strike in stoppage time.
At the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, midfielder Al Mandhar Al Alawi scored for Oman in the 41st to give his side lead against Bahrain.
Oman came with an improved performance in the second half with Arshad Al Alawi (50') and Khalid Al Hajri (59') sealing a brilliant victory. As Group A runners-up, Oman will meet Group B toppers Tunisia in the quarter-finals at the Education City Stadium on December 10.
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