Jordan score twice in stoppage time to beat Iraq and seal Asian Cup last-eight spot

Yazan Al Arab and Nizar Al Rashdan score deep into injury time to clinch thrilling 3-2 win

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Jordan manager Hussein Ammouta praised his team’s character in their incredible stoppage-time victory against Iraq in Qatar on Monday that sealed a place in the Asian Cup quarter-finals.

With Jordan 2-1 down as the pulsating contest at Khalifa International Stadium drifted towards its seventh minute of injury time, defender Yazan Al Arab pounced to equalise, before Nizar Al Rashdan curled in a superb effort from the edge of the Iraq penalty area to win it.

"The confidence that we have made us believe we could come back, and this is what we've done," Ammouta said after the match. "In added time we came back, we equalised, and we exploited Iraq being down one man.

"We have a strong mentality and we have to maintain it so we can go further in this tournament."

Iraq, the 2007 champions, thought initially they had done enough to advance, responding from conceding in first-half stoppage time to Yazan Al Naimat’s breakaway goal by scoring twice in eight second-half minutes.

On 68 minutes, defender Saad Natiq nodded home the equaliser not long after the hour mark before Aymen Hussein struck with 14 minutes remaining.

Hussein, the tournament’s top scorer with six goals, was immediately shown a second yellow card for excessive celebration and was subsequently sent off.

Ultimately, Iraq could not hold on in the most dramatic of circumstances. Only two minutes separated the goals from Al Arab and Al Rashdan.

Jordan, quarter-finalists in 2004 and 2011, face Tajikistan on Friday for a place in the last four. The Central Asians, one of the surprise packages of the tournament on Asian Cup debut, defeated the UAE on penalties on Sunday.

"The Tajikistan team is a team that went through improvements," Ammouta said as he bids to become the first manager to guide Jordan into the Asian Cup semi-finals. "They play modern football they have a strong attack and I think it will be a very difficult game.

"There is no big team or small team when you reach the knockout stage. Everyone wants to reach the final and wants to be the best in Asia and we respect every opponent."

Ammouta did agree with Iraq counterpart Jesus Casas that Hussein’s sending off proved decisive in the result.

"The second half belonged to them, they scored two goals and then had to continue with 10 players," the Moroccan said.

Already booked, Hussein was penalised for prolonging his celebration and thus delaying the restart of the match.

The striker had actually mimicked the Jordanian celebration in the first half, when Al Naimat led his teammates over the pitchside hoardings to sit on the turf and pretended to eat.

Speaking after the defeat, Casas said: "In a big tournament like the Asian Cup you cannot exclude a player after celebrating a goal. The same happened in the first half with the Jordanian players [celebrating] and the referee didn't take any action.

"The problem was in the timing of this red card. It took place after we had used all our substitutions, so it was a very difficult situation. We didn't have the chance to make any changes inside the pitch."

There were ugly scenes at Iraq’s post-match press conference when a large group of Iraqi journalists confronted Casas as he sat at the top table before shouting at the Spaniard.

Match officials and security had to step in to lead them away.

Asked later about his tenure with the national team – Casas was appointed 14 months ago and almost immediately guided the team to success at the Arabian Gulf Cup, the coach said: "Concerning my future, I'm calm and our goal is to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

“Anything might happen and I'm very calm.”

Updated: January 29, 2024, 4:35 PM