Tajikistan dream over as Jordan seal historic Asian Cup semi-final spot

Own-goal from defender Vakhdat Khanonov hands opponents place in last four for first time

Jordan's Abdallah Nasib celebrates after Tajikistan defender Vakhdat Khanonov's own goal in the Asian Cup quarter-final at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan in Qatar on February 2, 2024. Reuters
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It was the end of a dream for Asian Cup surprise packages Tajikistan on Friday as Petar Segrt's side were edged out by Jordan in the quarter-finals in Al Rayyan.

After an unforgettable run to the last eight in what is their tournament debut, Tajikistan's exit came in the cruelest of fashions when defender Vakhdat Khanonov turned the ball into his own net to in the 66th minute to score the only goal of the game.

After the highs of finding the back of the net at the correct end in Tajikistan's last-16 win – after a penalty shoot-out – over the UAE, Khanonov suffered the devastating low of scoring the own goal that sends his team home from Qatar.

It was a heartbreaking end for Tajikistan and their charismatic Croatian coach Petar Segrt, who had become one of the stars of the tournament with his media briefings and post-match reactions becoming catching the eye.

“We gave everything and I must compliment Jordan. You deserve to win, you played a very good game,” Segrt told beIN Sports.

“Sometimes you need luck, we didn't have it today. But we must also respect that Jordan played a very good game. So congratulations to Jordan.”

Tajikistan were the lowest-ranked side left in Qatar and won plenty of new friends in their first Asian Cup but it was left to Jordan to create their own piece of history.

Ranked 87 to the 106 of Tajikistan, Jordan – under Moroccan coach Hussein Ammouta – have reached the last four for the first time having been defeated in their previous quarter-finals in 2004 and 2011.

Jordan, ranked 87 to the 106 of Tajikistan, scored twice in stoppage time to stun Iraq 3-2 in the previous round and they made the better start in front of 36,000 spectators at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, a 2022 World Cup venue.

But it was Tajikistan who carved out the first big opportunity when midfielder Ehson Panjshanbe clipped a first-time effort on to the top of Jordan's bar after 15 minutes.

VAR was called into action when Tajikistan's Zoir Dzhuraboev sliced down Yazan Al Naimat in the box but VAR agreed with Chinese referee Fu Ming and gave no penalty.

Segrt was forced into a change midway through the half when striker Shahrom Samiev was forced off the pitch in tears after suffering a hamstring injury.

Jordan fans thought their team had scored on the half-hour mark, but danger man Al Naimat poked wide from a tight angle. They had a double chance just afterwards, when Ali Olwan was denied by Rustam Yatimov before the goalkeeper saved Rajaei Ayed's weak follow-up.

The game's deciding moment came in the second half when Jordan defender Abdallah Nasib rose at a corner and his header deflected off Khanonov and into the net.

Tajikistan tried their best to level the scores, with Alisher Shukurov coming close when he tested keeper Yazeed Abulaila from distance with an effort that stung his palms, but Jordan held on to clinch a famous victory.

Next up for Jordan will be South Korea who defeated Australia 2-1 thanks to an extra-time winner from Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-min.

Updated: February 03, 2024, 6:05 AM