Al-Rawi, al-Ahrak fire Qatar to win over Nepal
March 25 2019 12:20 AM
Bassam al-Rawi
Qatar captain Bassam al-Rawi in action during the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 qualifying Group A match against Nepal at Aspire Zone yesterday. PICTURES: Othman Khalid


Qatar and Oman are set for a Matchday Three showdown to decide the winners of AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 qualifying Group A, after both sides continued their winning momentum in the competition yesterday.
Qatar continued their trouble-free start to their campaign, producing a commanding second-half performance to overpower Nepal and secure a 5-0 win.
While the hosts delivered an impressive team performance, the match will be best remembered for the two sensational second-half goals scored by Bassam al-Rawi, who added to his rapidly-growing reputation with a superb individual performance. 
Qatar spent almost all of the first half on the front foot, but their attacking forays often came unstuck on the final pass, and they only managed two shots at goal in the opening 45 minutes, with Nepal unable to test their aim at all.
Despite the lack of goalmouth action, the hosts did go to the break with a 1-0 lead after Abdullah al-Ahrak sent a penalty into the top corner in the 25th minute. 
Al-Rawi, captaining the side after his starring role in Qatar’s AFC Asian Cup triumph two months ago, provided a moment of outstanding quality in the 54th minute, letting fly with an extraordinary 35-yard half volley which sailed beyond Nepali goalkeeper Arpan Karki and into the back of the net.
An unfortunate Dinesh Rajbanshi own goal extended the lead further, before the brilliant al-Rawi produced another stunner in the 80th minute, this time sending a wonderful 30-yard free-kick into the top corner. 
In a moment Karki would prefer to forget, al-Ahrak added the final coat of gloss, scoring on the bounce with a speculative long-range effort in the dying minutes, as Qatar sealed a thumping win.
Superior goal difference means Albert Caballeria’s side will need only a draw against Oman to secure direct qualification tomorrow, while Nepal, now eliminated, will play for pride against Afghanistan.
Oman kept their campaign on track, recording their second successive narrow win with a 2-1 victory over Afghanistan.
Second-half goals from Ahmed al-Matroushi and Muhsen al-Ghassani took the Omanis to six points from two matches, setting up tomorrow’s match against group hosts Qatar.
Afghanistan’s defeat leaves them without a point after two matches, meaning their qualification hopes have been dashed.
As in Friday’s opening 1-0 win over Nepal, Hamed al-Azani’s side were largely in control early, but several missed opportunities meant Oman were unable to capitalise, with Afghanistan goalkeeper Faisal Hamidi making an excellent stop to deny Salaah al-Yahyaei in one of the standout moments of the first half. 
Oman’s breakthrough came in the 56th minute, when al-Matroushi got on the end of a clever and well-rehearsed corner kick routine to score with a low drive, and they doubled their lead through an al-Ghassani penalty kick after Hamidi committed a foul just three minutes later.
Afghanistan found a glimmer of hope when they were awarded a penalty of their own, with captain Ahmad Haydary finding the back of the net with 13 minutes remaining, but an equaliser wasn’t forthcoming, leaving Oman to celebrate a hard-fought win.

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