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Doha: Qatar stayed cool to seal a 1-1 draw against Syria in their final qualifier in Group C, a result that saw them making the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship Finals in China. 

It was a result that Syria, on five points, were hoping would take them into the Finals too as one of the best second-placed teams.

Qatar's influential captain Ahmad Moen suffered a shoulder injury and had to leave the field in the 22nd minute, but they still had the better of the exchanges in the first period and deservedly went into the breather with a one-goal lead. 

The goal came in the 37th minute from a free-kick and Almoez Ali had a big hand in it. The lanky striker, troubling the Syrian defence with his movement and pace inside the box, was about to pull the trigger after getting away from Mohammed Almarmour when the Syrian defender fouled him.

Left-back Sultan Hussain Al Brake beautifully curled in the resultant free-kick with his left foot to give Qatar the lead in the 37th minute.

Syria equalised in the 61st minute through Mohamad Rafat Muhtadi, who powerfully headed home a beautiful cross from Moumen Naji on the left flank.

Syria grew in strength after the goal and looked the better of the two sides in the final few minutes but Qatar held on to their top spot.

Hussein Afash (Syria Coach)

"The game was good between the two teams. The Qatar team have quality. They dominated the first half but in the second half, we were better. In general the game was good. Our preparation was not great as we had a short preparation but we did well. The result was fair. Our strong point is our physical game and we did well. I am happy because we don't have injuries in this tournament."

Felix Sanchez (Qatar coach)

"I congratulate my players for qualifying for the AFC U-23 Championship in China. In the first half, we were very comfortable after we scored a goal. In the second half, they did well. I feel very proud with the performance of the team. It's such a young team and to play this tournament at this age, it was a very good opportunity for them."


Doha: India finished off their Group C campaign in the AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers with an impressive 3-1 victory over Turkmenistan at the Al Sadd Stadium in Doha on Sunday.

India, with three points, finished third in the group, behind hosts Qatar and Syria. Turkmenistan finished last in the four-team group.

Manvir Singh, Alen Deory and Jerry Lalrinzuala (penalty) scored the goals for India on Sunday.

Turkmenistan took the lead in the 13th minute, through Hojovov Hoshgeldi. The defender blasted in a free-kick from outside the area, giving no chance to India goalkeeper Vishal Kaith.

India had more possession and threatened the Turkmenistan defence on a number of occasions, but they could not deliver the end product. 

But they got a lucky break in the 40th minute when Manvir Singh, who was retreating to midfield after a failed attack, got a deflected pass and was played onside by Turkmenistan defender Mirsultanov Dovletgeldi, who then missed an opportunity to clear the ball.

Manvir took his time and calmly placed the bouncing ball to the left of keeper Berdiyev Dovletyar. 

Turkmenistan missed a chance in the 58th when Hojayev Resul hit his shot straight at Kaith after a neat exchange of passes with Rejebov Berdimyrat while at the other end, Hoshgeldi cleared Nikhil Chandrasekhar Poojary's dangerous cross.

India took the lead in the 71st minute after a flowing move down the right involving Chandrasekhar, Manvir and Alen Deory, who finished off with a left footer.

Soon it was 3-1 when a free-kick hit Turkmenistan midfielder Ashyrov Mekan's hand inside the area and referee Kim Hee-gon pointed to the spot after hesitating initially. Jerry Lalrinzuala emphatically converted, sending the keeper the wrong way.

India got another chance to put the issue beyond doubt, but Lallianzuala Chhangte hit his powerful shot wide after the referee played advantage following a foul on Deory. 

There was still time for Kaith to show his acrobatics when he was called into action to stop Nurlyyyev Bayramgeldi's powerful shot.

Agamyradov Ahmet (Turkmenistan Coach)

"Unfortunately, we lost. After the Syria match, the boys understood that we don't have much of chance to qualify and psychologically we were down. India played with nothing to lose and they played a good game. Congratulations to the Indian team.

"I think this was a big experience for our young players. some are 19 years old and some are just 18, and this is a big experience for them. In some years, some of these players will represent the national team and I hope this experience will help them in the future."

Stephen Constantine (India Coach)

"Finally, we won a game in this tournament. If I evaluate our matches, we were extremely unlucky to lose the first match and again, very unlucky to lose the second. But we did well in this match. We controlled the game, took our chances. Turkmenistan players are very good on the ball but I think in the end, we deserved to win. I'm very happy for the players."

Photos: Qatar Football Association

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