Doha, 22 January 2024 - Hassan Al Haydos’ goal-of-the-tournament contender earned Qatar a 1-0 win over China PR in their final Group A clash of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar™ 2023 at Khalifa International Stadium on Monday as the hosts eliminated Aleksandar Jankovic’s side from the competition.
The Qatari captain came off the bench to smash a spectacular volley from 20 yards past the helpless Yan Junling in the 66th minute and maintain the much-changed defending champions’ perfect start to the campaign while also sending the Chinese home.
Jankovic’s side needed a win to be certain of advancing to the last 16 but, after failing to find the back of the net in their opening games against Tajikistan and Lebanon, the Chinese once again miss-fired in attack to limp out of the competition.
Qatar started with the tournament’s joint-leading scorer Akram Afif on the bench alongside the 2019 AFC Asian Cup golden boot winner Almoez Ali and Al Haydos as Marquez Lopez made 10 changes to the team that started the 1-0 win over Tajikistan.
The Chinese, meanwhile, left Wu Lei on the side lines with Wei Shihao making his first start alongside captain Wu Xi and Lin Liangming as Dai Wai-tsun and Xu Xin were also dropped to the bench.
While Boualem Khoukhi sent an early header wide of the Chinese goal, it was Jankovic’s team who cut through the home defence in the seventh minute, narrowly failing to take the lead after Lin Liangming released Zhang Yuning and his cutback was thumped wide by Wei.
Zhang had an effort blocked by Khoukhi as China PR made their attacking intentions clear early in the game, although the Qataris presented a threat at the other end despite their wholesale changes, with Abdulaziz Hatem’s curling strike clearing the bar.
Wei almost opened the scoring nine minutes before halftime when his close range effort was brilliantly blocked by Saad Al Sheeb’s left-hand save after the Wuhan Three Towns striker had seen Wu’s scuffed shot land at his feet.
Khalid Muneer’s dipping attempt dropped over the crossbar while Chinese strike duo Zhang Yuning and Wei both steered headers off target in the final exchanges of the opening 45 minutes.
Muneer threatened again early in the second period but, with the game at risk of petering out, Lopes introduced Afif and Al Haydos from the bench and within moments the pair combined in spectacular fashion.
Afif’s perfectly flighted corner found Al Haydos unmarked on the edge of the penalty area and the veteran midfielder drove his first-time right-foot strike home at an unstoppable rate to secure Qatar’s third win in a row and end China PR’s AFC Asian Cup challenge.