Abu Dhabi, Jan 26 : Both Qatar and hosts United Arab Emirates advanced to the AFC Asian Cup 2019 semifinals on Friday, beating South Korea and defending champion Australia 1-0 respectively in the quarters.
A superb second-half goal by Abdelaziz Hatim proved the difference as Qatar beat South Korea 1-0 to meet host nation the United Arab Emirates in the last four on Tuesday.
Hatim's thunderous effort from distance settled a tense yet absorbing affair, one which sees Qatar head into their first-ever AFC Asian Cup semifinal in the nation's 10th appearance in the tournament.
After a distinctly cautious start by both sides, South Korea slowly but surely began to gain a foothold and threatened first when Jung Woo-young fired well over from distance on 16 minutes.
Content to sit back and soak up the pressure, Qatar were nevertheless a threat going forward as first a fierce Hasan Al Haydos effort was blocked by a wall of red Korean shirts, and then the highly regarded Akram Afif brought a smart save out of goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu shortly after the half-hour mark.
Moments later, and in what proved to be the final genuine opportunity of the opening half, midfielder Hwang In-beom curled a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area after Qatar had failed to adequately deal with Lee Yong's free-kick.
Qatar emerged for the second period clearly eager to take the game to their opponents, although it was South Korea who once again came closest to breaking the deadlock, this time Hwang Ui-jo controlling the ball superbly before bringing a fine save out of Qatar custodian Saad Al Sheeb.
With captain Son Heung-min a growing influence, South Korea continued to press, Lee Chung-yong missing a glorious chance at the far post after Al Sheeb had misjudged the flight of Kim Jin-su's deep cross.
Tournament leading goalscorer Almoez Ali was to have his first sight of goal on 60 minutes when the livewire forward forced Kim Seung-gyu into another excellent stop as the Qataris remained a threat on the counter-attack.
Kim Jin-su then grazed the outside of an upright with a delightful free-kick, before Qatar took the lead in sensational fashion. Gathering possession some 25 yards from goal, Abdelaziz Hatim sent the ball rocketing past Kim Seung-gyu's despairing dive.
Within seconds Hwang Ui-Jo had a goal ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for offside, while Boualem Khoukhi's spectacular overhead kick was expertly repelled by Kim Seung-gyu.
Looking to avenge their semifinal defeat of four years ago, the UAE locked horns with the reigning champions in a lively encounter at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.
While both exuded positivity, converting chances was the greatest initial challenge.
Ismail Al Hamadi and Apostolos Giannou both tested their respective keepers before Ali Mabkhout headed over a great opportunity on the stroke of half-time.
Having brought the Socceroos to life in the last round, Mathew Leckie almost repeated the feat, slipping Giannou through to slot home, only for the former to be flagged offside.
No risk of that when UAE struck, however, with Mabkhout latching onto a rogue back-pass from Milos Degenek, with the hosts' No. 7 rounding Mathew Ryan to steer them onto the road to the semifinals.
Australia rapped at the door in search of an equaliser, but the UAE just held firm. (UNI)