Doha (AFP) – Qatar salvaged some hope of reaching the 2018 World Cup finals with a narrow and desperately needed victory against Syria in a crucial Group A Asian qualifier on Tuesday.
The 1-0 victory, secured by a first half Hasan Al-Haydos penalty, brought to an end a run of three consecutive group defeats.
The three points also lifted the ambitious Gulf nation off the bottom of the group above China and four points behind South Korea in the third-placed play-off position after four games.
They are six points behind second-placed Uzbekistan, who occupy one of the automatic qualification positions, and it still remains likely that the first ever World Cup finals game Qatar play will be when they host the competition in 2022.
The defeat leaves Syria in fourth, one place above Qatar, on four points.
Tuesday’s victory was hard-fought yet deserved and it was fitting that the only goal was scored by Al-Haydos, in the 37th minute, who proved a constant threat to Syria’s defence.
Indeed it was his jinking run which forced the penalty.
The playmaker turned past one defender before being tripped by Mouaiad Al-Midani.
He slotted home the penalty himself.
Qatar should have doubled the lead seven minutes later when Sebastian Soria was clean through but his weak shot was cleared by a covering defender.
Soria had another chance in the 50th minute when again he was put clean through, this time by Qatar’s La Liga-playing teenage star Akram Afif, but again the Uruguayan-born star fluffed his chance.
Then Al-Haydos had two chances in three minutes.
He forced a fine save from goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma in the 69th minute before having a shot blocked in the 72nd minute.
Qatar, who have a habit of letting in late goals in qualifiers, were made to sweat for their victory.
Jorge Fossati’s team anxiously saw out the final 10 minutes when Syria, roared on by a vocal number of fans in the 9,940 crowd, went close to scoring twice.
In the 80th minute Mahmoud Almawas fired narrowly wide before Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb made a spectacular save from a long-range free kick.
Qatar hung on and will have a chance to build on this victory when they travel to China for their next qualifier in November.
Syria play group leaders Iran in their next game.
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