|Ahmed volleys a spectacular goal to open Qatar's Asian Cup account in a vital win against China [Reuters]
Qatar stormed back from their abject opening-day defeat to Uzbekistan as two goals from Yusef Ahmed, including a volleyed wonder strike, gave them a 2-0 win over Group A rivals China.
After five days in which their home Asian Cup campaign was looking decidedly bleak following the Uzbek loss, Qatar fans were back in noisy numbers at the Khalifa Stadium and were treated to a strong contender for goal of the tournament.
Running onto a looped header 30 yards out, Ahmed tipped the ball up with his knee before volleying spectacularly into the far left top-corner of the Chinese goal.
His 27th-minute strike was well-deserved as Qatar controlled the play against the Chinese, who remain on three points in the group alongside the hosts.
It looked as if Qatar would have the slenderest of leads to show for their superiority at half time before Ahmed shielded the ball on the edge of the area, held off China captain Du Wei and spun to hit a low shot that took a deflection off his marker as it arrowed into the bottom corner of Zeng Cheng's net.
The victory moved Qatar level with China on three points, but the hosts sit second by virtue of Wednesday's win.
Uzbekistan lead with six points while Kuwait are bottom with none, but a win over Qatar in their last match could still see the Kuwaitis go through.
The mood could hardly have been more different than the almost funereal atmosphere during Friday's defeat to Uzbekistan when the crowd left in droves long before the end of the 2-0 defeat.
Coach Bruno Metsu, under intense pressure to avoid a second straight loss and keep his job, had promised the crowd a far better performance and his men responded with a confident and passionate display.
"We wanted to show the real face of our team and the players have done that," Metsu said afterwards.
"They have shown their potential and I'm very proud of their performance. We will try to do the same against Kuwait and qualify for the next stage."
Despite losing, China coach Gao Hongbo said it was a good experience for his young team but admitted they needed to make more of their chances.
"Our team did not do well in attack. Qatar got two goals and we didn't give them enough pressure so Qatar were able to organise their attack very easily," he said.
"We lost but I think losing is part of life and I think we can do better in the next game, which is now very important for us."
Qatar could have been two goals up before they went ahead.
Sebastian Soria wasted an easy chance after 11 minutes, hitting the ball onto his standing foot with the net empty apart from a flailing Zeng on the ground, before Ahmed hit the side netting.
Uruguay-born Soria, working tirelessly and forming a good partnership with Ahmed, was unlucky not to do better with two more opportunities, the second after 65 minutes flying wide after an ambitious shot on the run.
China, who beat Kuwait 2-0 in their opening game, rarely threatened to score and their night was best summed up when Rong Hao fired a free-kick hopelessly high and wide from more than 40 yards just before the end.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies