Saudis storm into last 16

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Saudi Arabia's midfielder Hussain Al-Moqahwi (R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Group E match against Lebanon at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai Saturday. — AFP

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia recorded its second straight victory by blanking Lebanon 2-0 and powered into the last 16 of the AFC Asian Cup at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai Saturday.

Fahad Al-Muwallad smashed a loose ball into the roof of the net with just 12 minutes gone, and on 67 minutes Hussain Al-Moqahwi finished at the far post from Hatan Bahbri's teasing cross to top Group E with two wins.

Earlier, back-from-retirement Sardar Azmoun fired Iran into the knockout phase.

Azmoun, 24, quit the national team after fans rounded on him following Iran's exit at last year's World Cup, but he was the toast of Tehran once again with both goals in a 2-0 win over Vietnam.

Iraq also made it into the last 16 as teenager Mohanad Ali inspired the 2007 champion to a 3-0 win over Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, with seven titles between them, joined already qualified South Korea, China and Jordan as the round of 16 began to take shape.

Coach Queiroz singled out Azmoun after the Rubin Kazan forward's double made him the tournament's top scorer with three goals, and gave Iran a record ninth successive first-round victory.

"He's a finisher," said the Portuguese, now in his eighth year as Iran coach.

"We have high hopes for him for this competition. But the way the team is contributing around him, and our movement in the last third, are very interesting."

"It's a pity our performance didn't produce a couple more goals," Iran coach Queiroz told reporters.

"But winning is the best medicine in football. To win two games and score seven goals — I have to praise my players because I am very demanding."

In Sharjah, 18-year-old Ali scored a wonderful solo goal to put Iraq 1-0 up after 11 minutes, although questions must be raised of the Yemeni defense.

Pouncing on a loose back pass, Ali held off three defenders before rifling his shot past Yemen goalkeeper Jalal Hassan for his second of the tournament.

Bashar Resan doubled Iraq's lead midway through the first half when his deflected shot drifted in off the upright with Hassan slow to get across.

Ali hit the post in one of the rare highlights of the second half before Alaa Abbas grabbed Iraq's third in injury time, finishing sharply after Ahmed Yaseen's header into his path.

Iran and Iraq will meet in Dubai Wednesday to decide who tops Group D in a repeat of their quarterfinal of 2015, which Iraq won on penalties. — AFP


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