Group A: Oman 0-1 Qatar
Changzhou: A neat Akram Afif finish edged Qatar closer to a quarter-final berth at the AFC U23 Championship 2018 on Friday thanks to a narrow 1-0 win over regional rivals Oman at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Center.
With one round of matches still to play, the victory lifts Qatar to top spot in Group A on six points, three ahead of both host nation China PR and Uzbekistan, while Oman are fourth and still searching for their first points of the tournament. Uzbekistan beat China 1-0 in the day's earlier match.
In a first half of few genuine chances, Qatar threatened first when Afif curled an early shot wide, before Oman midfielder Jameel Al Yahmadi released Muhsen Al Ghassani who could only screw his 22nd minute shot wide of Ibrahim Al Mukhaini’s right hand post when through on goal.
Al Mukhaini was then forced into action some 10 minutes later, the custodian reacting well to tip a firm Bassam Al Rawi header over the bar following Ahmad Moein’s pinpoint free-kick.
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However, as the opening period drew to a close, it was Qatar who would take the lead when the industrious Almoez Ali found Afif who finished with aplomb from a tight angle.
Oman emerged after the break clearly eager to restore parity, and Al Ghassani came close to doing just that courtesy of a shot from 20 yards that fizzed narrowly past Mohammed Al Bakari’s left upright with an hour played.
A flicked header from Oman livewire Al Ghassani and Qatar substitute Meshaal Al Shamari's late effort over the bar subsequently represented the best opportunity either team forged as full-time approached, and the Qataris kept their hopes of progressing to the knockout phase well and truly alive.
Qatar will attempt to confirm their place in the last eight on Monday when they face China, while Oman will tackle Uzbekistan.
Felix Sanchez: Qatar head coach
“I think both teams made a good effort today. It was great that we were able to get the three points. Oman pushed hard and made it difficult for us to control the ball at times, but we had our chances to score on the counter-attack. I am proud of my players as they have played against two strong teams in Uzbekistan and Oman so far and have performed well.”
Hamad Al Azani: Oman head coach
“I am disappointed by the result. A lot of my players are young, and they have a (bright) future, we have to support them. I think we did well to restrict Qatar’s goalscoring chances and had opportunities of our own in the first half and then in the second half when we changed our formation and played with two strikers.”