Asian Cup hosts Qatar began their title defense with a 3-0 win over Lebanon in their tournament opener on Friday thanks to a brace from Akram Afif, their prized playmaker, and another goal from Almoez Ali.
After a glittering opening ceremony at the Lusail Stadium in the presence of Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the two attackers stole the show and opened the tournament with three points for the hosts.
Qatar had an early goal ruled out for offside, but after a period of dominance, Afif finally managed to capitalize on Ali’s shot in the penalty area just before half-time to make it 1-0.
Afif was the busiest player in the final third, staying two steps in front of the Lebanese defense, finding space and creating plenty of chances that were wasted, while the playmaker also saw a header clip the crossbar on its way over.
Ali, the top scorer of the 2019 edition, doubled the lead in the 56th minute when he headed home Mohammed Waad’s inviting cross from the left. Lebanon had its moments on the counterattack to give their traveling fans some hope, but Qatar held firm.
Afif rounded off the victory in stoppage time when he capitalized on a botched free throw and effortlessly got past a tiring Lebanese defense before calmly finishing to make it 3-0. China faces Tajikistan in the other Group A game on Saturday.