11/02/2024 02:29 AM
Ahmad Nazrin Syahmi Mohamad Arif
Ahmad Iskandar Kamaruzaman (pix)
11/02/2024 02:29 AM

LUSAIL (Qatar), Feb 10 Feb (Bernama) -- Hotshot Akram Afif scored a hat-trick of penalties to inspire Qatar to a 3-1 win over Jordan in controversial fashion in the 2023 Asian Cup final at the Lusail Stadium here tonight.

The win allowed Qatar to become only the fifth team to defend the title since its inception in 1956, joining the likes of South Korea in the 1956 and 1960 editions; Iran (1968, 1972 and 1976); Saudi Arabia (1984 and 1988) and Japan (2000 and 2004).

Afif scored the first two of his three penalties by planting his right-footed shots to the bottom left corner in the 22nd and 73rd minutes before nailing his third with a right-footed shot to the bottom right corner in injury time (90th+5).

Yazan Al Naimat had made it 1-1 in the 66th minute with a left-footed shot from the centre of the box after receiving a cross from Ehsan Haddad.

Qatar, led by coach Marquez Lopez, started brightly and came close to opening the score after just 12 minutes when Almoez Ali, upon receiving a raking pass from Hassan Al-Haydos, had only the goalkeeper to beat in the penalty box but was thwarted by Salem Al-Ajalin.

Four minutes later, it was Jordan's turn to test Qatar goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham when Al-Naimat received a pass from Ali Olwan and let fly a powerful right-footer from outside the box that the custodian managed to palm out.

Hosts Qatar, also known as The Maroons, finally got the breakthrough they were looking for in the 22nd minute when referee Ma Ning of China pointed to the spot after Afif was fouled by Abdallah Nasib in the box.

The 27-year-old Afif picked himself up to cooly place his shot to the bottom left corner beyond the reach of Jordan goalkeeper Yazeed Abulaila.

Abulaila was called into action again in the 33rd minute and did well to prevent The Chivalrous, as Jordan are known, from falling further behind when he managed to push out Lucas Mendes’ powerful header off a corner taken by Afif.

Towards the end of the first-half, Afif gave Qatar's supporters a fright when he had to be stretchered out for treatment before returning to the pitch to a rapturous reception.

Jordan, who are coached by Hussein Ammouta, had a glorious chance to level the scores in the first-half added time but Mohammed Waad Albayati threw his body to block Mousa Al-Tamari's powerful attempt after receiving a pass from Olwan.

It was Jordan who began the second half with more venom as they launched a series of attacks on the Qatari backline only to be denied by the brilliance of Barsham, who made three excellent saves from skipper Haddad, Yazan Al-Arab and Al-Tamari.

However, the 26-year-old Barsham was finally beaten when Haddad floated in across from the right for Al-Naimat to slam home a left-footer in the 67th minute.

Six minutes later, Afif got his - and the team's - second goal to put Qatar 2-1 up from the spot when referee Ma Ning, after checking the pitchside Video Assistant Referee (VAR) monitor, confirmed that Jordan's Mahmoud Al-mardi had fouled substitute Ismaeel Mohammad.

Then, in injury time (90+5), the referee again had to rely on VAR to give Qatar a third penalty after Abulaila was deemed to have fouled Afif, enabling the striker with the eye-catching hairstyle, to steal the show by completing his hat-trick with aplomb.

The hat-trick of goals tonight allowed Afif to take his goal tally to eight, two more than Iraq's Aymen Hussein, to become the tournament's top scorer and be named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament.