Wednesday 30 January 2019

Qatar erupts in joy after humbling arrogant UAE

Doha erupted in celebration on Tuesday as jubilant Qataris and expatriates flooded the streets after their team's victory over bitter sporting and political rivals the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar punished the unwelcoming hosts 4-0 in a politically charged clash marred by disgraceful behaviour from shoe-throwing Emirati fans to reach their first Asian Cup final where they will face Japan on Friday.

The Qataris, whose national anthem was booed by many uncivilized spectators before the game, scored through Boualem Khoukhi, Almoez Ali, Hasan al-Haydos and Hamid Ismail in Abu Dhabi.

As they celebrated a famous win and record sixth clean sheet at a single Asian Cup, plastic bottles rained down from angry local fans -- as they had for each Qatari goal, with midfielder Salem al-Hajri even hit on the head after their third.

Qatar's midfielder Boualem Khoukhi (C) celebrates during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup semi-final football match between Qatar and UAE

Traffic along Doha’s Corniche, was jammed bumper-to-bumper with exultant fans celebrating the thumping 4-0 Asian Cup semi-final victory, many honking horns or waving Qatari flags from car roofs, and others showing four fingers to emphasise the emphatic victory.

"I am so happy, of course, because now we will play in the final," Ahmed, 24, said as he watched the celebrations smoking from the side of the match.

"But for us this match is better than the final, it's revenge for everything bad they (the Emiratis) have said.”

His Syrian friend Hattim agreed.

"This is history. Qatar has God with it. Qatar always acts the right way," he said.

Meanwhile, Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said his team handled the pressure well.

"It wasn't an easy situation," admitted Sanchez. "The players were aware there was going to be a lot of pressure but they managed their emotions quite well -- I'm very proud of them."

A match bristling with regional tension over the long-standing Gulf blockade of Qatar quickly burst into life as a meaty tackle from Bandar al-Ahbabi on Akram Afif put the Qatari midfielder up in the air.

But Qatar drew first blood after 21 minutes when Khoukhi's shot squirted under UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa, much to the horror of a hostile crowd .

Afif was then targeted by bottle-throwing Emirati fans as he tried to take a corner, appealing desperately to the referee as he stepped away from the kick.

Bottles and footwear are pictured on the pitch during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup semi-final football match between Qatar and UAE at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Qatar exacted swift retribution eight minutes before the break, however, Ali smashing home a right-footed shot from the edge of the box to equal Ali Daei's 1996 record of eight goals in a single Asian Cup.

As Ali celebrated, more bottles and even shoes -- a deeply insulting provocation in Arab culture – were thrown at the players.

UAE almost pulled a goal back after the interval when Ali Mabkhout forced Saad al-Sheeb into a fingertip save before Ahmed Khalil also tested al-Sheeb's reflexes.

But Qatar never looked seriously troubled and captain al-Haydos coolly chipped in a third to spark further chaos as the atmosphere began to turn sinister, al-Hajri knocked to the ground as more missiles streamed onto the pitch.

UAE defender Ismail Ahmed was then shown a red card in stoppage time for an elbow on al-Hajri, before Ismail added a breakaway fourth to compound UAE's misery.

Qatar's Pedro Correia took great satisfaction from silencing the haters. "We like to play games like this," the defender told AFP.

"Everybody knows about the problems but we don't care -- we just play football. Let the people talk, winning 4-0 is more important."

UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni confirmed after the game that he was stepping down.

“We simply failed in our objective," he said.

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