Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran book seats in Asian Cup knockout stage

Sunday, 2019-01-13 07:27:22
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Saudi Arabia players celebrate a goal during their match against Lebanon. (Photo: AFC)
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Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran beat their respective opponents in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 on Saturday, securing berths for the Round of 16 with two wins in the group stage.

Saudi Arabia powered to a 2-0 victory over Lebanon, topping Group E with six points, three from their 4-0 win over DPR Korea on Monday. The Saudis will take on Qatar, who beat Lebanon 2-0 on Tuesday, in the last round of the group stage on January 16 when Lebanon will face DPR Korea.

In the all-West Asian affair at the Al Maktoum Stadium, Saudi Arabia took control of the match from the start, holding possession and forcing Lebanon to play on the counter-attack.

Saudi Arabia found their breakthrough in the 12th minute when they latched onto a defensive mistake. Hussain Almoqahwi made it 2-0 in the 67th minute.

In Group D, three-time champions Iran tamed Vietnam 2-0 at a wonderfully atmospheric Al Nahyan Stadium. Two goals from Sardar Azmoun ensured the Iranians six points as Iran had hammered Yemen 5-0 in the group opener.

Vietnam must beat Yemen to stand any chance of sealing their place in the next round as one of the best third-place finishers.

For Iraq, their 3-0 win over Yemen on Saturday - having defeated Vietnam 3-2 on Matchday One - meant Srecko Katanec's team join Iran on six points with Wednesday's clash with Team Melli to determine who finish top of Group D.

Despite Iraq coming into the match as the hot favorites, it was Yemen who applied the early pressure.

Iraq, however, gradually began to dominate possession and took the lead in the 11th minute when 18-year-old Mohanad Ali Kadhim beat the Yemen defense before unleashing a shot from outside the box into the bottom right corner.

Yemen goalkeeper Saoud Al-Sowadi soon found himself under incessant pressure and conceded the second goal in the 19th minute when Bashar Resan Bonyan's strike from the top of the box bounced off the right post before settling in the net.

The 2015 semi-finalists Iraq ended proceedings on a high note as Alaa Abbas scored with a left-footed shot from the center of the box in the 91st minute.