Qatar trumps Saudi Arabia 2-0 in politically-charged Asian Cup 'blockade derby'

Qatar trumps Saudi Arabia 2-0 in politically-charged Asian Cup 'blockade derby'
Qatar has topped group E of the Asian Cup after beating regional rivals Saudi Arabia at the Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi.
2 min read
17 January, 2019
Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar will go through to the group of 16 [AFP]

Qatar clinched the top spot of their Asian Cup group after beating Saudi Arabia 2-0 in a match bristling with political animosity on Thursday.

Qatari forward Almoez Ali bagged a brace amid a hostile atmosphere for his side in Abu Dhabi, where the Qatari national anthem was drowned out by boos from a pro-Saudi crowd.

Jeers were also heard from the crowd each time the 2022 World Cup hosts attacked.

The two Gulf sides faced off amid a continued 19-month blockade on Qatar imposed by a Saudi-led bloc that accuses Doha of supporting terrorism, an accusation Qatar denies.

Asian Cup hosts the United Arab Emirates stand squarely behind the Gulf blockade of Qatar and the mood was highly charged at the Zayed Sports City stadium - even if the football at times wasn't.

Both teams had already qualified from Group E after winning their first two matches and it was Saudi Arabia who almost broke through after 22 minutes when striker Fahad Almuwallad slammed a right-foot shot against the post.

Qatar captain Hasan Al-Haydos missed a penalty in the 42nd minute after Ali had been clattered in the box.

But Ali, who plundered four goals in Qatar's 6-0 rout of North Korea last weekend, made no mistake in first-half stoppage time.

He calmly slotted the ball past Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais to stun the partisan crowd and become the first player to score six goals in a single Asian Cup since South Korea's Lee Dong-gook in 2000.

Ali subsequently headed in a seventh goal of the tournament 10 minutes from time, celebrating with a jig of delight that further antagonised the crowd.

Qatar, who have never gone beyond the quarter-finals, advance to face Iraq in the last 16 while three-time winners Saudi Arabia take on Japan.