The second round of the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates has kicked off in style, with some interesting matches by the Middle Eastern teams competing in groups A & B.
On the early game of the day, Bahrain, who surprised the hosts in the first game with a 1-1 draw, managed to lose to Thailand 1-0, by a single goal of Chanathip Songkrasin, ‘The Thai Messi’, in a game that Miroslav Sokoup and his players would prefer to forget.
In the second game, the surprise of the tournament - Jordan - who’ve shocked the football world after managing to beat Australia in their opening match, played their neighbors - Syria, in a modern day Shami Derby.
Syria, one of the rising powers in West Asian football in recent years, who made an outstanding World Cup qualifiers campaign between 2015 to 2018, was a clear favourite for the match, but against this Jordan, it seems that no team can be counted as such.
The combative unit of Belgian coach Vital Borkelmans took over the match from an early stage, and simply demolished the Syrian defence in the first half. Amer Shafi, the legendary goalkeeper who was one of the heroes in the victory against the Socceroos, was excellent yet again, but the main figure was, as expected - Musa Al-Taamari, the young starlet from APOEL Nicosia.
Al-Taamari was setting havoc in Syria’s area in every attack and scored his goal in a counter-attack on the 26th minute. 16 minutes later it was already 2-0 after Tareq Zayed headed home a corner by Al-Taamari, and Jordan went to the halftime with a huge advantage.
In the second half, Syria tried to create some chances through “The Two Omar’s” - Omar Al-Somah and Omar Khribin - but their attempts were weak and not accurate enough. Jordan as the better team and rightly won.
That’s amazing. Who would have believed before the tournament that Jordan, from all teams, will be the first team to qualify for the 1/8 finals? Much respect must go to Shafi, al-Taamari and Borkelmans. The Neshama look like they have the same material that legends are made from in these kinds of tournaments
In the final match of the day, UAE has played against India in Abu Dhabi in a special match for the large Indian population that live in the country. The atmosphere in the stadium was no less than a Kolkata derby when few thousands of Indians have come to support their national team against their tournament’s hosts.
It looked well for the Blue Tigers in the beginning, with few great chances but on the verge of the half time whistle, Khalfan Mubarak in a silky move scored to Gurpreet Singh’s upper net and made 1-0 to the Emirates. India kept pushing for and only thanks to Khalid Eisa and inaccuracy by Sunil Chhetri couldn’t find the back of the net.
In the 88th minute, Ali Mabkhout scored from a close range after taking India’s defence for a walk. 2-0 UAE, who finally made it to their own tournament, as group A is boiling ahead of the first stage final day. Every team in the group can qualify for the knockouts or go home. Including the hosts.
The Asian Cup is on fire!