Abu Dhabi: A superb second-half Abdelaziz Hatim goal proved the difference as Qatar beat Korea Republic 1-0 to claim a place in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 semi-finals on Friday. Hatim’s thunderous effort from distance settled a tense yet absorbing affair, one which sees Qatar head into their first-ever AFC Asian Cup semi-final in what is the nation's tenth appearance in the competition.
By way of contrast, the Koreans exit the tournament by the slenderest of margins having failed to make amends for their defeat in the final of the 2015 edition in Australia.
Qatar will now meet host nation the United Arab Emirates, who beat Australia in the day's later game, in the last four on Tuesday.
After a distinctly cautious start by both sides, Korea Republic slowly but surely began to gain a foothold and it was they who threatened first when Jung Woo-young fired well over from distance on 16 minutes.
Content to sit back and soak up the pressure, Qatar were nevertheless a threat going forward as first a fierce Hasan Al Haydos effort was blocked by a wall of red Korean shirts, and then the highly regarded Akram Afif brought a smart save out of goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu shortly after the half-hour mark.
Moments later, and in what proved to be the final genuine opportunity of the opening half, midfielder Hwang In-beom curled a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area after Qatar had failed to adequately deal with Lee Yong’s free-kick
Qatar emerged for the second period clearly eager to take the game to their opponents, although it was Korea Republic who once again came closest to breaking the deadlock, this time Hwang Ui-jo controlling the ball superbly before bringing a fine save out of Qatar custodian Saad Al Sheeb.
With captain Son Heung-min a growing influence, Korea Republic continued to press, Lee Chung-yong missing a glorious chance at the far post after Al Sheeb had misjudged the flight of Kim Jin-su’s deep cross.
Tournament leading goalscorer Almoez Ali was to have his first sight of goal on 60 minutes when the livewire forward forced Kim Seung-gyu into another excellent stop as the Qataris remained a threat on the counter-attack.