Qatar’s Almoez Ali scored a brace to enter record books as the top scorer of the AFC Asian Cup in one competition as Qatar beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 to top Group E with nine points, at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Thursday.
Almoez, with his two goals, increased his tally to seven for the tournament and has eclipsed the six-goal record held by Korea Republic’s Lee Dong-gook since 2000.
Qatar will now meet Iraq in the Round of 16 while Saudi Arabia will take on Group F toppers Japan.
Iraqi coach Srecko Katanec was seen watching the proceedings closely from the stands.
With the Group fixtures completed, the UAE will be locking horns with Kyrgyzstan, who finished as third best placed team from Group C on January 21.
The contest between Saudi and Qatar was touted as the match of the tournament but it failed to live up to the expectations. The first quarter was mainly confined to mid-field duel with either sides trying to take the measure of each other’s strengths. The Saudis, with plenty of supporters in the stands, made their first move in the 20th minute.
Hussain Al Moqahwi attempted a side volley after being fed by Yahya Al Shehri but it sailed over the framework.
Two minutes later, Saudi Arabia’s Fahad Al Muwallad had the Qatari defense completely split with his swift run but his right-footed effort found the bottom of the right vertical.
The first noteworthy move from Qatar came in the 40th minute and it resulted in a penalty.
Rise to the challenge
Ali Hadi Al Bulayhi brought down Qatar’s Almoez and Korean referee Kim Dongjin took his time before pointing it out to the spot. However, Saudi goalkeeper Mohammad Al Owais rose to the challenge and judged Hasan Al Haydos’ effort to perfection and got his foot in its way.
Despite that missed opportunity, Qatar managed to steal the lead just before the breather though a defensive lapse. Almoez scored past an onrushing Al Owais after Abdelaziz Hatim set him with a defense splitting through. The Saudis, trailing by a goal, showed far more purpose after the change of ends. Al Muwallad and Hatan Bahbri had their share of chances but failed to get the breakthrough.
In the 59th minute, Almoez again found the back of the net with a header from a corner but that effort was disallowed.
Saudi’s Bahbri played a give and take with Al Bulayhi but his final effort again sailed over the framework in the 73th minute. In the 80th minute, Qatar’s Almoez struck again with a header off a Hatim cross following a corner to make it 2-0.