Iraq on Tuesday fought back after a conceding an early goal to beat defending champion Qatar 2-1 in their Gulf Cup match at Kuwait Sports Club Stadium.
Young striker Almoez Ali had given Qatar the lead in the 17th minute with a spectacular left-footed drive but three-time champions Iraq hit back with key strikes from Fayez Ali (45) and substitute Ali Husny (66).
It was Qatar’s first loss in two matches while Tuesday’s narrow win revived Iraq hopes of a semi-final berth following a 1-1 draw against Bahrain on Saturday.
In another Group B match at the same venue on Tuesday, Bahrain edged past Yemen 1-0 to get their first win.
In the first minute of the clash played in chilly winds, Iraq’s defensive midfielder Amjed Attwan – following a loopy cross from the midfield – took aim at the Qatar goal from the edge of the box but his swinging shot was neatly pouched by ‘keeper Saad Al Sheeb.
A minute later, Qatar’s feared striker Hassan Al Haydos attempted a similar long-range show that sailed past the Iraqi goalpost without causing much harm.
After a few minutes of pensive action, Iraq’s Aymen Hussein was twice caught off-side by the linesman in the space of just two minutes. Seconds later in the 13th minute, Iraq forward Hussein went long-range on a quick-footed drive but the ball sailed past the Qatari goalpost.
Seconds later Iraq’s long-haired attacking midfielder Hummam Tareq – stationed near the edge of the Qatar box – produced a neat lob towards the goal but ‘keeper Al Sheeb had to put in the dive to clear the ball away.
In a spectacular effort Qatar stunned the Iraqi backline with the opening goal in the 17th minute. Captain Al Haydos picked up a loose ball from the midfield and after slaloming for a few meters he spotted Ali unmarked close to the Iraqi box and slipped a low cross to the tall striker.
Ali let the ball come to him and despite being shadowed by Iraq’s Rabin Ghareeb near his own box, Ali unleashed a powerful left-footed drive that took the ball past the diving Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hassan and crashed into the net at high speed.
As Qatar players celebrated with their trademark high fives but coach Sanchez presented muted response knowing plenty of time was left in the match.
At the half-hour mark, Iraq’s Hussein forced his way into the Qatar box but his shot from close range lacked pace allowing Qatari keeper Al Sheeb to collect the ball with ease. But just seconds later, Hussein’s team mate Attwan unleashed a shot full of pace from the edge of the box that narrowly missed the Qatari goalpost.
In the 36th minute, Iraq midfielder Ali produced a curling free kick some 30 yards away from the goal line but his shot was flicked away by Qatar ‘keeper Al Sheeb to kill the dangerous move.
Two minutes from the break, Qatar’s Ahmed Yasser was booked with a yellow card by the referee for bringing down Iraq’s Mohammed Abdulraheem.
In injury time, Iraq produced probably the goal of the championship on a long-range direct free-kick. Ali curled in a spectacular free-kick – from 30 yards out – that beat the Qatar wall and diving keeper Al Sheeb before crashing into the top right of net.
Three minutes into the second half, Iraq were denied by the woodwork. Iraq forward Hussein jumped high above his markers but his snap-header hit into the turf and then got deflected away with a bounce on the Qatari crossbar.
Qatar coach Sanchez brought in Mohammed Muntari in the 64th minute to replace Ismail Mohammed but a couple of minutes later, Iraq jumped to a 2-1 lead. Substitute Ali Husny – unmarked in the presence of three defenders – deflected the ball from close range following a loopy ball from Tareq on the flank.
Four minutes later, Iraq’s Hussein Ali swivelled past a couple of Qatari markers but his shot from the edge of the box missed its target by very little. A minute later, substitute Muntari fumbled with an easy deflection from close range in a miss that should have been easily converted with only the Iraqi goalkeeper at his mercy.
In a double substitution, Qatar benched striker Ali for Ali Feyrouddin while Iraq brought in Mustafa Nadim in place of Abdulkareem two minutes apart in the 80th minute.
Qatar keeper Al Sheeb produced top saves to kill Iraq attacks in the final minutes of the match.
Qatar take on Bahrain on Friday. The same day Iraq face Yemen.