Qatar sign off with a flourish
Kunshan: Akram Afif scored the only goal of the game as a penalty save from Yousof Hassan sealed a 1-0 win for Qatar over Korea Republic in the third place play-off of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship on Friday evening.
Afif claimed the winner in the 39th minute before Hassan kept out Hwang Hyun-soo’s spot-kick, earning Felix Sanchez’s side the consolation of the tournament’s bronze medal.
Played in frigid conditions after heavy overnight snow, both teams cancelled each other out in a tense opening 30 minutes that yielded little in goal mouth action.
Yoon Seung-won’s glancing header – which was well wide of the mark – was a rare sight of goal for the Koreans while at the other end Afif fed the ball through to Abdelrahman Moustafa, but was shepherded to safety by Hwang Hyun-soo.
As the half wore on, though, Qatar started to find pockets of space to exploit. Moustafa’s low driven cross from the right caused concern in the Korean backline as it eventually fell at the feet of Almoez Ali, but his shot was deflected wide.
With six minutes remaining in the half, Sanchez’s side took the lead. Afif raced in behind the Korean defence as Qatar broke quickly and the Belgium-based attacker scored at the second attempt after Kang Hyeon-mu saved his initial shot on goal.
Five minutes into the second half, the Koreans were handed the opportunity to level the scores when the assistant referee decided Tameem Al Muhaza had handled Park Jae-woo’s driven cross into the area.
But Korean captain Hwang saw his penalty saved by Hassan, the Qatar goalkeeper diving to his left to push the shot to safety and keep his side’s lead intact.
Afif squandered the opportunity to double his side’s advantage soon after when he latched on to Ali’s throughball, only for Kang to save, while Lee Keun-ho – on as a halftime substitute for the ineffective Yoon – was causing problems for the Qatar defence.
Twice the Ulsan Hyundai striker had a sight of goal, but both times Hassan was equal to the task while Cho Jae-wan was denied by the post after Hassan was beaten by his low shot.
The Koreans kept probing for the equaliser but the Qatari defence held firm to claim third place.