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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, January 9, 2019
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Late free-kick hands Iraq
Asian Cup win vs. Vietnam


Ali Adnan swept home a brilliant, last-minute free kick as former champions Iraq twice hit back to beat Vietnam 3-2 in the Asian Cup yesterday.

Vietnam's Golden Dragons took a shock lead after 24 minutes in the Group D clash in Abu Dhabi, defender Ali Faez panicking under pressure from Nguyen Cong Phuong and clumsily backheeling the ball past 'keeper Jalal Hassan Hachim.

Iraq, who defied the odds to win an emotional Asian Cup title in 2007, levelled 10 minutes later through striker Mohanad Ali, who profited from a defensive error to rifle home from the edge of the box.

Cong Phuong restored Vietnam's lead three minutes before the break, stabbing in from close range after Nguyen Trong Huang's shot had been parried by Hachim.

But Humam Tareq lashed home a second equaliser on the hour mark after more horror defending from the Vietnamese, who by that point looked to be running out of steam.

A lazy foul on the edge of the penalty area then presented Adnan with the chance to take all three points and he did not disappoint, curling a left-foot shot into the top corner to break Vietnamese hearts.

Iraq join Iran on three points after their bitter rivals thrashed Yemen 5-0 on Monday.

Meanwhile, Qatar are out to prove a point on the pitch as they begin their Asian Cup campaign under the cloud of the Gulf crisis and with the added scrutiny of hosting the next World Cup.

Coach Felix Sanchez said his players were determined to stay focused on the job at hand in the United Arab Emirates, one of the countries enforcing a damaging blockade on the 2022 World Cup hosts, ahead oftomorrow’s Group E opener against Lebanon.

"We've done the same that we are doing in any competition. We are here, we arrived, we are doing our training sessions," he told reporters in Al Ain.

The diplomatic chill could make for a fraught atmosphere for Qatar, especially when they face arch-political rivals Saudi Arabia in Abu Dhabi on January 17.

"Once we are on the pitch, we are going to focus only on what happens inside," he insisted. "As for crowd, of course they have to enjoy the game and to do what they think they have to do.

"From our side we're going to be only focused on the game."

The Asian Cup represents the first visit by Qatar's national side to the UAE since the start of a row that has transformed the Gulf and left Doha cut off from its neighboring former allies.

Since June 2017, the UAE and other regional powers have imposed a boycott on Qatar, accusing it of backing terrorism and being too close to Iran.*AFP


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