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Afif Nets Penalty Hat-Trick As Qatar Beat Jordan To Retain Asian Cup Crown

  • SPORT
  • 4 min read

Qatar successfully defended their Asian Cup crown after beating Jordan 3-1 on Saturday at Lusail Stadium where Akram Afif converted three penalties as the hosts won their second continental title.

Jordan were playing in their first Asian Cup final and seeking their first major trophy, but it was Qatar who prevailed in front of 86,492 fans including Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Yazan Al-Naimat had briefly given Jordan hope when he netted an equaliser in the second half but their dreams were shattered when they conceded two more penalties, put away by Afif who finished as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals.

Afif, who was thrown into the air repeatedly by his team mates after the final whistle, also picked up the award for player of the match and most valuable player of the tournament.

“I congratulate the Qatari people and players. We’re so happy after winning this difficult game, the tension was high,” coach Marquez Lopez told reporters.

“Maybe we didn’t play beautiful football today but everyone remembers the winner. I’m so happy for Akram, he deserved to win all the awards.”

Qatar took the lead when Afif won a penalty in the 20th minute as he tried to skip past Abdallah Nasib, with the referee immediately pointing to the spot as Jordan coach Hussein Ammouta reacted furiously on the touchline.

Qatar skipper Hassan Al-Haydos hovered near the penalty spot but once Jordan’s players were out of the way, he handed the ball to Afif and the forward stepped up to find the bottom corner from the spot.

The goal was the first Jordan had conceded since their dramatic last-16 win over Iraq and Afif celebrated his strike by performing a card trick for the cameras, displaying the letter ‘S’.

“‘S’ is the first letter of my wife’s name, she’s from Kuwait. Today’s match was her first in the stadium,” Afif said.

“The cup will remain in Doha… We will tell our fans that the best is yet to come.”

Jordan switched gears in the second half and pegged Qatar back as they began to find space in behind the defence.

Yazan Al-Arab nearly equalised with a sensational volley from a corner that was hit straight at the keeper while a back-heeled effort at the near post from Ali Olwan moments later went inches wide.

They finally found the equaliser midway through the second half when Al-Naimat controlled a cross with a sublime first touch, escaping his marker to fire home an uncontested shot for his fourth of the tournament.

TWO PENALTIES

Parity lasted only six minutes, however, as Qatar won another penalty after a VAR check for a trip by Mahmoud Al-Mardi and Afif made no mistake from the spot.

“Scoring penalties is because of the confidence my team mates had in me. It’s not about technique or choosing the angle, it’s the feeling of having my team behind me,” Afif added.

With 13 minutes added on, Jordan tried their best to find an equaliser once again but Qatar won a third penalty in stoppage time when Afif was through on goal and brought down by goalkeeper Yazid Abu Layla.

The forward kept his composure and stepped up one last time to put the game out of reach for Jordan as the home fans in the stadium erupted and unfurled a huge banner which featured their heroes from 2019 and the words “2023 loading”.

“We weren’t focused in the first half and we made mistakes. There were easy opportunities to score but we didn’t. The timing of the two penalties (in the second half) was harsh,” Ammouta said.

“But I want to congratulate the players. They’ve gained confidence and opened horizons for the future. Maybe we can win in future tournaments.”

Reuters