Al Ain: Almoez Ali was the star of the show on Sunday afternoon as he scored four and set up a fifth in Qatar’s 6-0 defeat of DPR Korea as Felix Sanchez’s side moved to the top of the Group E standings and into the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
The Al Duhail striker, now the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals in two games, shone as his partnership with Akram Afif down the left destroyed the DPR Korean defence repeatedly while Boualem Khoukhi and Abdelkarim Hassan also put their names on the scoresheet.
Victory means Sanchez’s side have secured themselves a top two finish in the group and their win also ensures Saudi Arabia will progress to the last 16. The teams face off on Thursday to determine who will top the group, with Qatar’s huge win meaning a draw in Abu Dhabi will be enough to take pole position.
After labouring in the opening hour of their 2-0 win over Lebanon, Qatar were taking no chances against DPR Korea, with Sanchez restoring the influential Hassan to the starting line-up and the West Asian side possessed a greater level of urgency as a result.
Within nine minutes the Qataris were in front as Afif glided past Sim Hyon Jin before delivering a low cross to Ali that he controlled with his right before stroking past Ri Myong Guk with his left.
Two minutes later and Qatar doubled their lead, with the threat this time coming down the right. Hassan’s sweeping ball found Hassan Al Haydos, the Qatar captain, and his low centre gave Ali the perfect opportunity to strike from close range. Once again he was clinical, netting for the third time in the tournament.
A string of yellow cards for Ri Un Chol, Jong Il Gwan and Ri Il Jin suggested DPR Korea were about to lose control, but eventually Kim Yong Jun’s side settled and almost pulled themselves back into the game. Ri Un Chol tried his luck from outside the area and his right foot drive only narrowly failed to find the top corner.
That, though, was to prove a brief bright spot in an otherwise disappointing half for DPR Korea. With just two minutes remaining, they found themselves further behind when Afif lifted the ball high over the advancing Ri Myung Guk and Khoukhi headed in from close range.
Qatar refused to relent as they sought to boost their goal difference ahead of their crucial meeting with Saudi Arabia, with Ali completing his hat trick 10 minutes into the second half with an easy finish after Afif’s perfectly weighted through ball.
The 22-year-old added further misery for DPR Korea five minutes later when he linked up again with Afif, who led a rapid-fire counterattack for the Qataris before rolling the ball through to Ali and he smashed his shot across Ri Myung Guk and inside the far post.
Ali turned provider in the 68th minute when his pass allowed Hassan to storm through the DPR Korea defence and slot home Qatar’s sixth and the east Asian side’s misery was compounded in injury time when Jong Il Gwan was sent off for second bookable offence.