Qatar produced a stirring fightback to beat Egypt in an international friendly yesterday and boost their morale ahead of crucial Asian Cup and World Cup qualifying games later this month.
Goals from Abdulkarim Hassan (29th min), Majed Ibrahim (54) and Yousuf Ahmed (91) at the Al Gharafa Stadium saw the hosts bounce back from a goal down and avenge their 2-0 defeat to the Egyptians in a friendly played on December 28 in Doha.
Reports suggested that the Egyptians had been reluctant to play another friendly against Qatar within a space of two-and-a-half months, and the proceedings yesterday reflected a distinct lack of application on the pitch as they missed a plethora of chances which allowed the Qataris to take control.
Egypt, the multiple African Cup champions, whose current FIFA ranking of 70 implies a huge slip in fortunes, had the better of the initial exchanges and went ahead in the third minute through Ramy Rabea who took advantage of the failure of the Qatari defence to clear the ball off a free-kick. Rabea was left with a simple tap-in with the defence nowhere in sight and goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb hopelessly out of position.
Lulled into complacency, the Egyptians then took a cavalier approach as they displayed a penchant for taking long shots at the goal. Inevitably, they all missed the target by miles relieving the pressure on the Qatari defence.
After several minutes of scrappy play, Qatar produced the equaliser in regulation fashion, Hassan leaping high to head the ball past goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy off a corner.
Qatar’s second goal also came in similar fashion in the second half, Ibrahim nodding in a corner after he was left unmarked.
The Egyptian goal survived another close call in the 88th minute, Hassan Haydos’ powerful free-kick crashing into the post from eight metres outside the penalty area.
But Qatar were not finished as they scored their third goal with Ahmed left with enough time on the right to coolly slot in a cross from Abdulkarim Hassan on the left.
“Although it was a friendly we took the match seriously,” said Qatar coach Fahad Thani. “The Egyptians are a strong side with very good international record, so it is always a matter of pride to beat them,” the Qatari added.
Thani said the victory would stand the team in good stead when they take on Bahrain in Asian Cup qualifying and South Korea in the World Cup qualifiers later this month.
“Of course, today’s match gives us lots of positives from which we will be taking a lot of confidence into our matches against Bahrain and Korea.”
Egypt, too, are in the midst of their African World Cup qualifying tournament and are scheduled to play Zimbabwe on March 26.