Asian champions Qatar retained top spot in Group E of Asian World Cup qualifying, after surviving a second-half scare from Oman with a 2-1 win on Tuesday evening. Oman levelled in the second-half thanks to a stunning solo goal from Arshad Al Alawi before Almoez Ali put Qatar ahead six minutes later.
Qatar took the lead in the second minute as Abdulaziz Hatem whipped a ball across the box, which was calmy controlled by Yusef Abdurasig, who pushed the ball into the area and Akram Afif timed his run perfectly to sweep the ball past Faizy Al Rusheidi.
Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali missed a crucial chance to fire the visitors level moments later, a smart lay-off from Muhsen Al Ghassani saw the Oman number nine through with the goal at his mercy, yet the Suwaiq Club attacker hit his shot straight into the chest of Sadd Al Sheeb, before the ball was bundled away on the follow up.
Qatar won a penalty on the twenty-third minute, Akram Afif was bundled down in the box by Faizy Al Rusheidi leaving referee Fu Ming little choice but to point to the spot. Hassan Haydos stepped up and duly side-footed the penalty wide.
For all of the Asian Champions verve in the attack, there were shaky defensive moments. Tarek Salman’s missed clearance was nearly set upon by Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali, however, Pedro was on hand to mop up the error and spare his Al Sadd team-mate.
Whilst moments later another Salman defensive error let in Muhsen Al Ghassani, who crowded out by Pedro and Khoukhi Boualem. Better sides would have taken advantage.
Qatar ratcheted up the pressure as the first half came to a close. With Almoez Ali having three key chances to take the game beyond doubt, the first came on the counter, despite his best efforts the Al Duhail striker failed to shake off his marker and his shot flew wide.
Abdulkarim Hassan then clipped in a perfect cross to Almoez, who couldn’t quite get the ball out of his feet, leaving the ball to trickle out of play.
Almoez went close for a third-occasion on the stroke of half time, blazing a shot over from a tight angle from an Akram Afif pass.
The leading scorer at the 2019 Asian Cup had been without a goal in two games for the Maroons, and fans might have been concerned that their main attacking threat could have been losing his touch. Qatar went into the break with a slender albeit deserved lead.
Oman quickly sparked into life after the break as Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali found himself to be bearing down on goal, however, the striker was to be denied by a fine last-ditch challenge from Tarik Salman. Whilst the resulting corner fell to Mohammed Al-Ghafri at the near post, who rashly smashed the ball wide.
Qatar dominated possession for the majority of the second-half, but was made to rue those missed chances as Arshad Al Alawi fired Oman level with a goal of his own making, after evading four Qatar tackles the diminutive winger surged forward before placing a shot under the arms of Saad Al Sheeb.
The goal was a wakeup call for Qatar who began looking to reinstate their lead. Al Alawi’s missed pass was set upon by Akram Afif who diligently squared to Haydos, the Qatar captain, should have fired his side into the lead yet elected to pass back to his team-mate. Qatar was overthinking, and it was starting to show on the pitch.
Almoez eventually picked up a deserved goal for his work rate to place Qatar into the lead on the 71st minute. A lay-off from Akram Afif set the Al Duhail striker on his way, before arrowing a shot into the bottom corner past Al Rusheidi.
The goal lifted a weight off the Asian Champions who began to play with more verve in the final stages of the contest. Abdulaziz Hatem, who had been the stand out player for the Maroons thumped a shot high and wide after sumptuous build-up play from Haydos and Almoez.