Abu Dhabi: Qatar were crowned AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 champions on Friday as superb goals from Almoez Ali and Abdelaziz Hatim laid the foundation for a 3-1 win over Japan in a rousing final at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The pair both found the net brilliantly in an inspirational first half for Qatar, while, despite a spirited second-half display from Japan, Akram Afif added a late penalty to secure the West Asian nation’s first-ever Continental crown in spectacular fashion.
On a historic night for the Qataris, Felix Sanchez’s talented charges recorded their seventh successive victory, while Ali’s ninth strike of the competition saw him break Ali Daei’s record for the most goals by a player in a single edition of Asia’s premier event.
While there was unbridled joy for Qatar, the defeat ended Japanese hopes of claiming what would have been a record-extending fifth title.
Japan, who had Tsukasa Shiotani replacing Wataru Endo, were quick to take the game to Qatar as Yuya Osako sent a fourth minute effort wide of the target.
However, it was to be their opponents who took the lead just eight minutes later through a moment of brilliance from Ali.
The young striker received the ball from Afif before juggling the ball twice and sending a spectacular overhead kick beyond the reach of Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda to etch himself into the record books and further underline his burgeoning reputation.
After their early setback, Japan looked for a quick response, but continually failed to find a way through a resolute Qatari defence that had not conceded a single goal en route to the title showdown.
With their frontline failing to shine, worse was to come for Japan on 27 minutes when yet another Akram Afif assist – his 10th of the competition – found the back from suspension Abdelaziz Hatim who curled a delightful effort into the bottom corner to double Qatar’s advantage.