Qatar have beaten Saudi Arabia 2-0 at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, the first meeting between the two Gulf nations since the start of a major diplomatic crisis in June 2017.
The Gulf rivals faced off in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi, on Thursday for a match dubbed the “Blockade Derby” to determine the winner of Group E.
Almoez Ali opened the scoring for Qatar with a right-footed shot from the centre of the box, making it through the bottom right corner.
He followed it up with a header from close range following a brilliant cross by Abdelaziz Hatim.
Before today’s game, the 22-year-old had scored five goals in the competition. His brace today means he’s the first player to score seven goals in the group stage since the year 2000.
Speaking on the importance of the victory, former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said it “means more than just finishing first or second”.
“If Argentina plays against Uruguay, Portugal plays against Spain, or England play against Scotland, it doesn’t matter if it’s a friendly or if you play for first or second, the result always means more than the game itself,” Mourinho told beIN Sports.
"This means more than just 1st or 2nd!"
Mourinho on the importance of Saudi Arabia v Qatar, despite both nations having already qualified from Group E.
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) January 17, 2019
The Maroons, under head coach Felix Sanchez, have shown a lot of promise in the competition with victories against North Korea and Lebanon proving they have the quality to go all the way.
Qatar beat Lebanon 2-0 in their opening group match, before thrashing North Korea 6-0.
The World Cup 2022 hosts will now face Iraq in the last 16 on Tuesday, while Saudi Arabia, who qualified as runners-up in Group E, will face Japan on Monday.
The Gulf crisis has overshadowed the tournament with a land, sea and air blockade preventing Qatari fans from attending games and supporting the national side.
Die-hard fans have been forced to watch the game on television with Emirati authorities denying Qatar’s media delegation entry to cover the match.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut all political, diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of seeking closer ties with Iran and “supporting terrorism”
Qatar has vehemently denied the charges with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir, saying he is ready for talks with his neighbours but is not willing to give up his country’s sovereignty.