Group B: Jordan 2-0 Syria
Al Ain: Jordan became the first team to advance to the knockout rounds of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 on Thursday as Vital Borkelmans’ side handed Syria a 2-0 defeat in Al Ain to seal their spot in the Round of 16.
The result saw the Syria Football Association announcing the sacking of coach Bernd Stange a few hours later, with Fajr Ibrahim appointed as his replacement.
For Jordan, the win - courtesy of goals from Mousa Suleiman Al Tamari and Tareq Khattab - means Borkelmans and his team can finish no lower than second in Group B no matter the outcome of the remaining games in the group.
Australia face Palestine in Abu Dhabi on Friday before Jordan take on the Palestinians in their final group game on January 15, when the Socceroos go head-to-head with the Syrians in Al Ain.
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In front of a buoyant Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, the Jordanians always looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with Yaseen Bakheet’s pace down the left and Yousef Rawshdeh’s penetration keeping the Syrian defence occupied, while Al Tamari provided the threat in front of goal.
Al Tamari sent his early effort wide and Rawshdeh should have done better with his attempt just after the midway point when he fired well off target.
Syria, for their part, dominated possession but, with Omar Al Soma often isolated, Stange’s side fashioned little of note in the final third of the pitch.
As a result, the Jordanians always looked the more likely to take the lead and the opener came in the 26th minute when Bakheet cut the ball back from the left to Rawshdeh and his low driven centre was steered home at pace by Al Tamari.
Three minutes later Jordan should have doubled their lead as Bakheet found Al Tamari, only for his effort to bounce off the turf before clearing the crossbar.
The second eventually came two minutes before the interval, and this time from a set-play similar to the one that opened up Australia in Jordan’s first game. Baha Abdelrahman’s short corner to Al Tamari was whipped into the area and Khattab held off the Syrian defence to head home at the near post.
With Al Soma subdued, the onus fell on 2017 AFC Player of the Year Khrbin to find a foothold in the game for the increasingly desperate Syrians. The Al Hilal man headed just over the bar five minutes after the restart before shooting straight at Amer Shafi six minutes later as his determination to haul his team back into the game grew.
Khrbin was involved again in the 71st minute as the Jordanian defence made a rare error to gift him the ball 25 yards from goal, but this time Shafi was on hand to save, doing just enough to divert his shot wide of the left post.
For all his desire, Khrbin could not find a way past the Jordan defence and it was Borkelmans’ side who went closest to scoring late on as both Saeed Al Murjan and Ahmad Ersan narrowly missed out. But it mattered little as Jordan were left to celebrate another famous win.
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