Changzhou: It was so near yet so far for Qatar as they lost to Vietnam in the penalty shootout in the semifinal of the AFC U23 Championship in Changzhou, China, on Tuesday.
Qatar took the lead twice in the match, and their second goal scored by Almoez Ali in the 87th, it looked, would be good enough to seal a berth in the final, but Vietnam came back strongly while Felix Sanchez’s boys ran out of luck in the penalties.
In the end, Bui Tien Dung’s two penalty saves made the difference as Vietnam earned a place in the final with a 4-3 victory in a shootout. The scores were level at 2-2 at the end of regulation time as well as the extra thirty minutes of the thrilling match-up.
While Akram Afif, Meshaal Al Shammeri and Almoez scored in the tie-breaker, both Ahmad Moein and Sultan Al Brake failed to find the target as Qatar bowed out in semifinals for the second successive competition following their fourth-place finish in 2016 in Doha.
Earlier, Qatar took the lead after Tien Dung fouled striker Almoez in the penalty area in the 39th minute and referee Muhammad Taqi had no hesitation pointing to the spot. Afif kept his cool from the spot as Qatar went in for halftime with a definite advantage.
However, Nguyen Quang Haim, who was the lynchpin of Vietnam attack, brought them level when he fired home from close-range in the 69th minute.
When Almoez scrambled home a second in 87th Qatar definitely had one foot in the final, but Quang Hai, who curled in a spectacular equaliser in the very next minute, and Vietnam had other plans.