Asian Cup: Debutants Tajikistan make last 16

By Sports Desk January 22, 2024

Tajikistan claimed a famous 2-1 win over Lebanon to progress to the last 16 of the Asian Cup on their tournament debut.

Lebanon took the lead early in the second half with a curling shot from Bassel Jradi, but they were reduced to 10 men when Kassem El-Zein saw red in the 54th minute.

Tajikistan had two goals ruled out for offside but finally scored with 10 minutes remaining to seal their progress from Group A.

Parvizdzhon Umarbaev restored parity, with Nuriddin Khamrokulov heading home a winning goal in the second minute of second-half stoppage time.

Coach Petar Segrt said: "Every day we stay here longer is fantastic. We have our first dream: To make the last 16.

"We have our second dream: we want to go to the second round. Now we dream again.

"This is football. Every one of us has a dream."

Asian Cup hosts Qatar, meanwhile, finished their group campaign in style on Monday with a spectacular volley from Hassan Al-Haydos for a 1-0 win over China, who are on the brink of elimination from the tournament.

The deadlock at the Khalifa International Stadium was broken midway through the second half with an unforgettable strike. Akram Afif's corner was immediately met outside the area by Al-Haydos, who confidently volleyed into the top corner. Both players had just been introduced as substitutes.

Qatar, who had already secured their spot in the knockout stage, topped Group A with nine points and advanced with Tajikistan, which beat last-place Lebanon 2-1 to take second with four points.

China finished with just two points and failed to score in any of their three games. They have never won the Asian Cup and must now wait for other results, but they have only the faintest of chances of squeezing into the next round as one of the four best-performing of the third-placed teams in the six groups.

Qatar may have lost all three games on home soil at the 2022 World Cup but has been perfect in the Asian Cup, advancing to the round of 16 by winning all three games without conceding a goal.

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