AFC U23 CHAMPIONSHIP - QF: QATAR 2-1 DPR KOREA (AET)
Doha: Ali Asad scored inside the first 90 seconds of extra-time as hosts Qatar secured a place in the semi-finals of the AFC U23 Championship after holding off the spirited challenge of DPR Korea to claim a hard-fought 2-1 win in Friday’s quarter-final at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.
Belgium-based midfielder Akram Afif coolly converted from the penalty spot after just five minutes to hand Qatar the lead only for So Kyong-jin to snatch an equaliser with a free-kick in second-half stoppage time to send the tie into extra-time.
But with Asad sweeping home from Afif’s cross inside the first two minutes of extra-time, Qatar will face either Korea Republic or Jordan at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday for a place in the final and qualification for the Olympic Games later this year in Brazil after Felix Sanchez’s side maintained their 100% tournament record with a fourth consecutive win.
Group A winners Qatar, who are looking to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time since 1992, attacked DPR Korea from the first whistle and the home side were rewarded after just five minutes as Afif was too quick for defender Kang Il-nam as the midfielder burst into the penalty area, and after picking himself up after being felled by the centre-back, confidently fired the resulting penalty high into the top corner.
DPR Korea were able respond after the early blow as Kim Ju-song tested goalkeeper Muhannad Naim before Yun Jong-su’s side thought they had found a response after 19 minutes, but Kim Yong-il had narrowly strayed offside on the edge of the penalty area before beating the Qatar custodian.
And Group B runners-up DPR Korea continued to enjoy chances to equalise in the closing stages of the first 45 minutes as Kim Yong-il looked to capitalise on an error from defender Tameen Mohammed nine minutes before half-time only for the striker to mis-time his strike from the edge of the six yard area to scuff the ball wide with only Naim to beat.
Naim was, though, called into action four minutes before half-time as continued pressure from DPR Korea saw Jang Ok-chol break into the area and his angled rising strike was unconvincingly helped over the crossbar by the Qatar keeper.
DPR Korea maintained the pressure at the start of the second half, although Qatar came agonisingly close to doubling their lead with 10 minutes remaining as a glancing header from substitute Mohammed Muntari struck the underside of the crossbar, although the assistant referee’s flag on the far side cut short any question marks as the ball bounced down close to the goalline following a foul in the build-up.
But in the second of four minutes of added time, DPR Korea equalised as So expertly curled a free-kick from just outside of the penalty area in to the top corner past Naim’s despairing dive.
Qatar, though, restored their advantage less than 90 seconds into the first period of extra-time as Asad met Afif’s chipped cross from the byline and directed a first-time volley under goalkeeper An Tae-song and into the bottom corner.
The hosts were then indebted to goalkeeper Naim at the start of the second period of extra-time as the custodian had to be alert to claw away Kim Ju-song strike from just outside of the penalty which appeared to be curling back into the top corner.
And Naim sealed Qatar’s place in the last four by diving low to his right to palm away another stoppage time free-kick from So.