Sound of si­lence as Qatar hit North Ko­rea for six

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

ABU DHABI: Genki Haraguchi smashed home a con­tro­ver­sial penalty as for­mer cham­pi­ons Ja­pan scraped a 1-0 win over Oman to book their place in the last 16 of the Asian Cup yes­ter­day. Ear­lier, Al­moez Ali plun­dered four goals for Qatar as the 2022 World Cup hosts hit North Ko­rea for six to progress from Group E.

Ja­pan, who have scooped Asian foot­ball’s big­gest prize on four oc­ca­sions, en­joyed their share of good for­tune against Oman in Abu Dhabi. Haraguchi clipped the cross­bar after just two min­utes be­fore Takumi Mi­namino fluffed a hand­ful of golden op­por­tu­ni­ties.

That profli­gacy al­most came back to haunt the Blue Samu­rai as Oman flooded for­ward and Muh­sen AlGhas­sani shaved the post from an acute an­gle. But Haraguchi set­tled Ja­pan’s nerves in the 28th minute, con­vert­ing from the spot after he had ap­peared to go down eas­ily un­der min­i­mal con­tact from Oman cap­tain Ahmed Al-Ma­hai­jri.

Oman had ex­tra rea­son to feel ag­grieved when their own penalty claims were waved away just be­fore half­time after Yuto Na­gatomo looked to have han­dled a Salaah Al-Yahyaei drive. “We were un­lucky with the hand­ball,” shrugged Oman coach Pim Ver­beek, whose team were beaten 2-1 by Uzbek­istan last week.

“I just saw it again on the tele­vi­sion and for me it was 100 per­cent a penalty. Against a team like Ja­pan you need a lit­tle bit of luck and we didn’t get it. Now we have to pick our­selves up for the last game and make Oman proud.” Ja­pan reached the knock­out stages of last year’s World Cup but they squeaked past Turk­menistan 3-2 in their open­ing Group F game and were poor against Oman, who al­most equalised when Raed Saleh’s ac­ro­batic late vol­ley flashed wide.

But the Ja­pa­nese re­main un­beaten in seven matches since Ha­jime Moriyasu took charge after the World Cup and have now lost just one of their last 30 games at the Asian Cup, ex­clud­ing penalty shootouts.

Ja­pan are seek­ing to make up for their Asian Cup flop four years ago when they lost on penal­ties to the United Arab Emi­rates in the quar­ter-fi­nals. But they will need to find an­other gear if they are to threaten Iran, who are purring, and a South Ko­rea side set to be boosted by the ar­rival of Tot­ten­ham for­ward Son He­ung-min.

“It was tougher than we thought it would be,” Ja­pan cap­tain Maya Yoshida told AFP. “We were a lit­tle bit lucky with the penalty we had-and the one not given as well. “But we should have scored two or three more. That’s why we strug­gled at the end of the game in the last 10 min­utes.”

Qatar’s 6-0 romp over North Ko­rea was played out in an al­most eery si­lence in front of barely 300 spec­ta­tors in Al Ain. The long-run­ning block­ade of Qatar by Gulf neigh­bours who ac­cuse Doha of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism largely pro­hibits Qataris from en­ter­ing the UAE.

“The play­ers know this is the sce­nario and they deal with it,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez. “We don’t have our sup­port­ers here but we know that they’re sup­port­ing from Qatar.” Ali took his tally to a tour­na­ment-best five goals with two in each half, com­plet­ing this Asian Cup’s first hat-trick by dink­ing the ball over goal­keeper Kim My­ong Guk 10 min­utes after the in­ter­val.

His salvo equalled an Asian Cup record as he be­came the fourth player to score four goals in one game. Qatar, who beat Le­banon 2-0 in their open­ing game, top the group on goal dif­fer­ence from three-time cham­pi­ons Saudi Ara­bia.

North Ko­rea have failed to find the net once and con­ceded 10 times in a pair of per­for­mances that will not please Py­ongyang. Ja­pan will take on ei­ther Saudi Ara­bia or Qatar after qual­i­fy­ing for the knock­out stage for the eighth con­sec­u­tive time. In the day’s late kick­off, El­dor Sho­murodov bagged a first-half brace as Uzbek­istan crushed Turk­menistan 4-0 in a clash of for­mer So­viet re­publics to progress and go top of Group F ahead of Ja­pan on goal dif­fer­ence. — AFP

ABU DHABI: Oman’s mid­fielder Raed Saleh (R) heads the ball dur­ing the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group F foot­ball match be­tween Oman and Ja­pan at Hazza bin Zayed Sta­dium in Abu Dhabi yes­ter­day. — AFP

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