Qatar are through to the semifinals of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup after holding off El Salvador, 3-2, in a thrilling quarterfinal clash.
Qatar seemed to be cruising to victory with a 3-0 second half lead, until El Salvador made an incredible comeback that fell just short.
Qatar could not have asked for a better start, as they grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 2’ when an El Salvador giveaway led to a counterattack, ending with Akram Afif dishing a pass to Almoez Ali, whose finish beat El Salvador GK Mario Gonzalez for the goal.
The momentum was clearly with the reigning Asians champions and they quickly doubled the advantage to 2-0 in the 8’, with Pedro Miguel finding Abdelaziz Hatim, who made a slight move before unleashing a right-footed shot that rippled the net.
El Salvador looked to regroup and pull a goal back before halftime, but they encountered a very compact Qatar defense that kept the dangerous Salvadoran attackers at bay.
El Salvador’s comeback task got a lot tougher in the 55’ when a handball resulted in a penalty for Qatar and Ali smashed in the spot kick for his second goal of the night to make it a 3-0 affair.
Following the third Qatar goal, El Salvador enjoyed their best spell of play and it resulted in their first score of the night in the 63’, with a touch pass from Amando Moreno finding the cutting Joaquin Rivas, who finished to bring El Salvador to within 3-1.
The goal sparked El Salvador to life and suddenly it was 3-2 in the 66’ when Bryan Tamacas won a ball deep in the Qatar area and fed Rivas, who stroked in a left-footed shot.
That set the stage for a dramatic finale in which El Salvador launched numbers forward in hopes of an equalizer, but their attempt to become the first team to come back from a three-goal deficit in a Gold Cup match ran out of time.