In the other fixtures, Qatar beat Saudi Arabia and Oman coasted past Turkmenistan.
The final bracket for the AFC Asian Cup Round of 16 phase was completed on Thursday, with the final group stage matches setting up the clashes to begin from Sunday onwards. In Group E, Qatar reigned supreme over Saudi Arabia with a 2-0 win at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi, making them group winners over their rivals. After having a penalty saved in the 42nd minute, striker Almoez Ali capitalized on some shocking defending to give his side the lead just before half-time.
Watch: Saudi Arabia 0-2 Qatar, Goals and Highlights
Ali was at it again in the second half, doubling the lead with an 80th minute header to take his tally to seven for the tournament. The Qatar striker is leading the line fantastically and proving to be the unearthed gem for them. While Saudi Arabia did create a few decent chances, they just weren’t clinical enough in front of goal and poor defensively. Qatar now go onto face Iraq on Tuesday in the Round of 16, while Saudi Arabia face Japan on Monday.
Lebanon ended their AFC Asian Cup campaign with a 4-1 win over North Korea at the Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah, coming quite close to attaining qualification through the 3rd place bracket. After Chollima started the game strongly with a 9th minute opener from Park Kwang-ryong, The Cedars came rallying back to win the game. A brace from Hilal El-Helwe along with a goal apiece from George Felix Melki and Hassan Maatouk, were enough to give them all three points.
Watch: Lebanon 4-1 North Korea, Goals and Highlights
While Korea did threaten initially with a quick-fire start, Lebanon were the dominant side throughout the game and could’ve scored more. They had eleven shots on target and had they scored one more goal, they could’ve made the Round of 16 ahead of Vietnam. However, the big win itself was a good one for The Cedars, sending them home happy. Chollima’s campaign ended horribly, with them having conceded 13 goals in three games and learning a lot of lessons from a difficult group.
Japan edged out Uzbekistan 2-1 at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain, to win their group in the ultimate encounter of Group F. The White Wolves drew first blood after a spectacular solo effort by Eldor Shomurodov in the 40th minute, but Japan equalized just three minutes later through Yoshinori Muto. With the game finely-balanced, a stunning long-ranger from Tsukasa Shiotani won the game for Samurai Blue and enabled them to jump over Uzbekistan to finish as group-toppers.
Watch: Japan 2-1 Uzbekistan, Goals and Highlights
The game itself was an extremely competitive one, filled with thrilling moments. Both sides gave their absolute everything in aiming to win the game and cancelled each other out on multiple occasions. Japan were the braver of the two going forward, allowing them to win the game after ambitious attempts. Uzbekistan will feel undone by the loss, but got a taste of how they could fare against top oppositions before the knockout rounds.
Oman also attained last-minute qualification for the Round of 16, brushing aside a resilient Turkmenistan 3-1 at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi. The Reds played with extreme urgency right from the getgo and fantastic stops from Mamed Orazmuhamedov frustrated them. However, a curling free-kick from captain Ahmed Al Mahaijri broke the deadlock in the 20th minute. Despite doing very little, Turkmenistan got their equalizer in the 41st minute with Altymyrat Annadurdyyev’s lucky strike.
Watch: Oman 3-1 Turkmenistan
However, the Reds played with amazing intensity to win the game in the second half. Despite desperate defending and some more superb saves from Orazmuhamedov, Oman got the lead in the 84th minute with Muhsen Al-Ghassani’s finish. In the dying moments, a goal from Mohammed Al-Musallami gave them an unassailable lead, while also helping them progress into the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in their history.
While Oman now face Iran’s challenge on Sunday, Uzbekistan take on defending champions Australia on Monday. To round off the remaining Round of 16 fixtures, Thailand face China and Jordan meet Vietnam on Sunday. On Monday, South Korea face Bahrain, while on Tuesday hosts UAE face a tricky challenge against Kyrgyz Republic.