DOHA: Jordan will meet Tajikistan in the Asian Cup quarter-finals after two stoppage-time goals secured a 3-2 win over Iraq, who had striker and tournament top scorer Aymen Hussein sent off late on for his goal celebrations on Monday.
Jordan had a man advantage after the 77th-minute dismissal of Hussein but looked down and out in injury time, only for Yazan Al-Arab to prod in a 95th-minute leveller.
If that was hard to believe, better was to come two minutes later for Jordan when Nizar Al-Rashdan scored with a glorious long-range effort to break Iraqi hearts and spark wild celebrations.
Iraq’s heartbroken players were left flat-out on the turf, their dreams of repeating the country’s fairytale 2007 Asian Cup title somehow snatched from their grasp.
Jordan’s coach Hussein Ammouta agreed with his opposite number that the harsh dismissal of Hussein for a second yellow card, for over-celebrating what he thought was Iraq’s winner, changed the game.
“The second half belonged to them, they scored two goals and then had to continue with 10 players,” said the Moroccan. “In added time we came back, we equalised and we exploited Iraq being down one man. We have a strong mentality and we have to maintain it so we can go further in this tournament.”
Jordan are ranked 24 places lower than Iraq but they were the better side in the first half in front of a 36,000 crowd at a raucous Khalifa International Stadium.
After going close on at least two occasions, Jordan deservedly took the lead in the first minute of injury time.
The Iraq defence sloppily presented Yazan Al-Naimat with the ball and he raced towards goal before chipping over a flailing and overworked goalkeeper Jalal Hassan.
Iraq struck back in the 68th when Saad Natiq headed home from a corner before Hussein scored eight minutes later when he controlled a cross and fired into the bottom corner.
The joy of scoring his sixth goal of the tournament quickly turned to shock when the referee produced a second yellow card for excessive celebrations after the striker mimicked Jordan’s players and sat on the turf, pretending to eat by himself.
“In a big tournament like the Asian Cup you cannot exclude a player after celebrating a goal. The same happened in the first half with the Jordanian players [celebrating] and the referee didn’t take any action,” Iraq coach Jesus Casas told reporters. “The problem was in the timing of this red card. It took place after we had used all our substitutions, so it was a very difficult situation. We didn’t have the chance to make any changes inside the pitch.”
While Iraq fumed, Jordan took full advantage of the extra man and when Mousa Tamari’s stoppage time effort was parried by Hassan, Al-Arab was on hand to fire home the rebound.
The comeback was complete when midfielder Al-Rashdan was left unmarked outside the box and curled his shot past the keeper to leave Iraq reeling.
TAJIKISTAN STUN UAE
On Sunday, tournament debutants Tajikistan upset the United Arab Emirates 5-3 in a dramatic penalty shootout to keep their dream run alive after the game ended 1-1 after extra time at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.
Tajikistan took the lead through Vahdat Hanonov’s first-half goal before Khalifa Al Hammadi forced extra time with a stoppage-time header.
In the shootout, UAE’s Caio Canedo had his effort saved by goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov before Tajikistan’s Alisher Shukurov scored the decisive spot kick.
Tajikistan are now only the second tournament debutants since Australia in 2007 to reach the quarter-finals but this was a much bigger upset for the minnows compared to an established Australian team who made the switch to the AFC.
Ranked outside the top 100, the central Asian side managed by Petar Segrt sit 42 rungs below UAE, a team that had reached the semi-finals in both the 2015 and 2019 editions.
Segrt called his team “the black horses of the tournament” and said “nobody knows how far we can go”.
“I have no limits for the players because every game they surprise me again,” said the charismatic Croat. “My next dream is to go to the next round again.”
Paulo Bento’s UAE suffered an early blow when midfielder Abdalla Ramadan went down with a knee injury and had to be replaced in the 16th minute.
“He was really important in the minutes that he was on the pitch because it allowed the team to make the build-up in the right way,” said Bento.
Tajikistan took the lead when Khanonov climbed above Canedo to connect with a header that UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa fumbled over the line.
They had chances to double their lead in the second half and Alisher Dzhalilov was wasteful when he blazed wide with the goal at his mercy after making a lung-busting run to get into the box.
The UAE hit the post in injury time before Hammadi notched a dramatic equaliser, rising to head home Ali Saleh’s free kick and send the game into extra time.
But the UAE supporters were stunned into silence when Tajikistan converted all their spot kicks to spark wild celebrations from the dugout.