By Nick Mulvenney
ABUDHABI (Reuters) – Qatar’s Abdulaziz Hatem scored with a stunning late strike as the 2022 World Cup hosts upset Son Heung-min’s South Korea 1-0 to reach the semi-finals of the Asian Cup for the first time on Friday.
The defensive midfielder’s left-footed shot came out of the blue in the 78th minute and flew past South Korea goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu to decide a largely disappointing contest in front of a crowd of only 13,700 at Zayed Sport City.
Twice former champions South Korea poured forward to try and rescue the match but were unable to produce an equaliser and it will be the Qataris who will face holders Australia or hosts the United Arab Emirates for a place in the final next Tuesday.
The political rift between Qatar and the UAE meant the Maroons were supported by only a couple of hundred Omanis but they celebrated wildly in front of them at the final whistle.
Pre-tournament favourites South Korea, who had been looking to reach the last four for a record-extending 11th time, bow out before the semi-finals for the first time since 2004.
Both teams had played their last 16 matches on Tuesday, which perhaps contributed to a forgettable first half with just one shot on target — Akram Afif’s long-range effort after 32 minutes which South Korea keeper Kim safely gathered.
The Qataris came out with more attacking intent in the second half but were almost immediately caught on the break with Hwang Ui-jo forcing a save out of Saad Al Sheeb.
The game was opening up with chance at both ends and Son, who had looked fatigued since joining the South Korean squad for their third group game, started to impose his influence.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward got a low drive on target in the 72nd minute which went straight to Saad and made a decoy run before Kim Jin-su curled the ball onto the outside of the post from a free kick three minutes later.
Just when it looked like the Koreans might be getting on top, though, the ball broke for Hatem in midfield and seconds later it was nestled in the bottom right-hand corner of the South Korean net.
Hwang Ui-jo had the ball in the back of the opposite net two minutes later but was ruled offside, a decision confirmed by the video assistant referee, and Qatar held on to secure a famous victory.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Christian Radnedge)