Qatar thrash UAE to reach Asian Cup football final

Qatar to face Japan in the final after beating hosts in front of a hostile crowd in Abu Dhabi.

Qatar beat hosts United Arab Emirates 4-0 to reach the final of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

The win, coming in front of a hostile Abu Dhabi crowd, sealed Qatar’s progress to the title match for the first time where it will face Japan on Friday.

Qatar opened the scoring with Boualem Khoukhi in the 22nd minute with Almoez Ali adding a second 15 minutes later. 

Hassan al-Haydos added a third in the 80th minute with a chip over the UAE goal-keeper and Ismaeil sealed Qatar’s progress with a goal in injury time.

The match was marred by crowd disruptions twice where shoes and bottles were thrown at Qatari players celebrating after scoring. 

The crowd could be heard chanting and booing during the playing of Qatar’s national anthem minutes before the start.

“I think the players were aware that it was going to be tough with the crowd but I think they controlled their emotions very well,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez.

“It was difficult for the players, it’s normal in a semi-final to celebrate, and I think it was only a few people who behaved in a not proper way, most were fair. But it was a great game for us … I’m very proud and very happy.”

Insult was added to indignity in stoppage time when UAE defender Ismail Ahmed was sent off after a VAR review for an elbow to the face of Salem Al-Hajri just before Qatar scored the final goal.

“It was a tough game in this situation and they played in the right way …they made us happy, the whole country is proud of them,” Nasser al-Mohannadi, a Qatari fan who watched the game with thousands of other fans in Doha, told Al Jazeera.

Qatar football fans celebrate the team's success in Doha [Huthifa Fayyad/Al Jazeera]
Qatar football fans celebrate the team’s success in Doha [Huthifa Fayyad/Al Jazeera]

“Sport shouldn’t mix with politics. Sports can make a huge impact and bring people together. I hope after this tournament, the political situation will improve,” he added.

UAE had been hoping to reach the Asian Cup final for the second time, but instead are likely to face FIFA sanctions after the crowd trouble.

The tournament has been played against the backdrop of a regional dispute, which saw Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt sever political, diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar and impose a land, air and sea blockade on the Gulf nation in June 2017.

Showing sympathy for Qatar is punishable in the UAE with a jail term of up to 15 years.

Dubbed the Blockade Derby, the match was the first meeting between the two regional rivals since the start of the Gulf crisis.

Free tickets were distributed among “loyal” Emirati fans on Sunday by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, which bought all the remaining ones for Tuesday’s semi-final.

Meanwhile, non-Emiratis attempting to avail the free entry were turned away, UAE news outlet, The National reported.

“I apologise to the fans for the result. We tried our best,” said UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni, whose contract came to an end with the defeat.

“We kept trying but we have to admit the Qatar team were the better team tonight.”

Japan is the most successful team in the Asian Cup with four titles, followed by Iran and Saudi Arabia with three apiece. 

Additional reporting by Huthifa Fayyad in Doha

UAE goal-keeper Khalid Eisa clears shoes thrown on the field at Qatari players by the crowd [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]
UAE goal-keeper Khalid Eisa clears shoes thrown on the field at Qatari players by the crowd [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera