The final day of the Asian Cup group stage first round saw three Middle Eastern teams in action.
Oman played against Uzbekistan, while Qatar and Lebanon were competing against one another.
The Omanis faced a highly organised and defensive minded Uzbek side, as expected from their Argentinean coach, ex-Egypt gaffer - Hector Cuper. Odil Akhmedov scored for Uzbekistan in the first half, as Oman struggled to create chances. In the 72nd minute, Muhsin Al-Ghassani equalized for the Omanis, but five minutes before the final whistle Eldor Shomurodov ran through the Omani defence and nailed the winner from a close range.
Lebanon arrived for their opening match of the tournament with great anticipation and hopes but quickly found out that even though Qatar is not the best side in the competition, they are hard to beat.
In one of the most unpleasant games to watch so far in the 2019 edition of the Asian Cup, the Lebanese defended for the first 40 minutes, seeing Qatar failing to get a scoring chance despite holding the ball for 72% of the time.
In a shocking move, Qatar’s coach Felix Sanchez Bas decided not to start with Abdelkarim Hassan, the Asian Player of the Year for 2018, which negatively influenced the Qatari strength and striking force.
Lebanese Ali Hamam took advantage of the situation and scored a surprising goal for Lebanon, that was ruled out by the Korean referee, Ko Hyung Jin, due to an unclear foul committed on Portuguese-Qatari Pedro Correia Pinto.
On the second half, Qatar managed to organise their play. Iraqi born Bassam Al-Rawi sent a perfect free kick from on the verge of the box to the upper net of Mehdi Khalil, Cedars’ goalie, and made it 1-0 to Qatar.
The Lebanese began to attack with great pressure but couldn’t create one decent chance. On the other hand, with Hassan who came on instead of Abdelkarim Ali, Qatar was dangerous in every move. Hassan was the architect of the move that brought to Qatar’ second goal by Sudanese born Ali Almoez, with a great run from the left flank to the middle.
Throughout its history 37 dual nationality footballers have played for Qatar, therefore it wasn’t surprising to see an Iraqi and a Sudanese score in their 2019 Asian Cup debut.
The Lebanese, and especially their coach Miodrag Radulovic, will look for the goals & points against Saudi Arabia and North Korea.