Asian Cup: Qatar seal progress to last 16 with win over 10-man Tajikistan

China's hopes in the balance after goalless stalemate with Lebanon

Qatar forward Akram Afif celebrates after scoring against Tajikistan. AFP
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Defending champions and hosts Qatar became the first team to book their place in the Asian Cup last 16 with a 1-0 win over debutants Tajikistan on Wednesday.

China's 0-0 draw with Lebanon earlier in the day means Qatar are guaranteed to go through to the knockout round as Group A winners.

Livewire forward Akram Afif, who scored twice in Qatar's opening 3-0 victory over Lebanon, hit the winner early in the first half in front of 55,000 with another clinical finish.

Tajikistan ended the match with 10 men after Amadoni Kamolov was sent off for kicking out at Ahmed Al-Ganehi late in the game, the first dismissal of the tournament.

Qatar were returning to the tent-like Al Bayt Stadium, where they lost 2-0 to Ecuador in the opening game of the World Cup just over a year ago.

The 2019 Asian champions gave another solid performance, illuminated by a flash of brilliance from Afif.

The forward raced onto a through ball from Almoez Ali in the 17th minute before stabbing it deftly past goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov.

Meanwhile, China's qualification hopes are in the balance after they were held 0-0 by Lebanon earlier in the day - their second goalless draw of the tournament.

Lebanon twice struck China's crossbar while the Chinese had a shot cleared off the line.

China's Serbian coach Aleksandar Jankovic called it "a very tough game" and said they deserved more.

"At the end we did not win but we showed good mentality, excellent attitude and big fight.

"The road is still long and the target is the same - to play in the knockout stage."

Jankovic said China's fate was still in their own hands, even if the pressure is on them to beat Qatar.

"We depend only on ourselves and I always like to be in this kind of situation," he said.

Updated: January 17, 2024, 7:01 PM