Asian Cup: Hosts Qatar spot on to sneak past Uzbekistan and set up semi-final against Iran

Goalkeeper Barsham the hero in dramatic shoot-out in Doha

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Hosts and holders Qatar moved into an Asian Cup semi-final against Iran after beating Uzbekistan 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham was the hero for Qatar after saving three penalties in the shoot-out.

Pedro Miguel dispatched their final penalty in front of almost 60,000 fans at the tent-like Al-Bayt Stadium north of Doha.

Qatar also missed twice in the shoot-out, with Almahdi Ali blazing horribly over. Qatar had won their four previous games at the tournament but they were given a stiffer test by Uzbekistan, who some had tipped as dark horses to lift the trophy.

The hosts opened the scoring midway through the first half when captain Hassan Al-Haydos forced an own goal from goalkeeper Utkir Yusupov.

But Uzbekistan levelled just before the hour when Odiljon Hamrobekov broke free of the Qatar defence and drilled a shot into the corner of the net.

Qatar's opponents in the semi-final will be Iran, who beat pre-tournament favourites Japan 2-1 in the day's earlier quarter-final.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh scored a 96th-minute penalty to give his side a dramatic victory. It capped a stunning comeback from Iran, who were behind at the break but roared back to dump out the Samurai Blue and keep alive their dream of a first Asian title since 1976.

Hidemasa Morita gave Japan, who were looking to lift the trophy for a record-extending fifth time, the lead midway through the first half in front of 36,000 at Education City Stadium in Doha.

Mohammad Mohebi drew Iran – themselves champions three times – level 10 minutes after half time and they dominated the remainder of the game.

But just when it looked like extra time, Kou Itakura brought Hossein Kanaanizadegan down in the box and skipper Jahanbakhsh held his nerve to spark delirium on the pitch and in the stands.

Coach Amir Ghalenoei said his players were "fantastic" in the second half.

"They gave everything for the Iranian people," he said. "This can be a turning point for Iranian football."

Ghalenoei, whose side squeezed through on penalties over Syria in the last 16, took a potshot at critics of him and his side back home.

"I am not saying criticism is not good, but some people in the last 11 months tried to ruin the national team," he said.

Updated: February 03, 2024, 7:15 PM