After first-half domination, Qatar held on to grab a 3-2 quarterfinal victory over El Salvador in the quarterfinal round of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup on Saturday night at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
It took 95 seconds for Qatar to steamroll into the game. A weak giveaway from El Salvador midfielder Darwin Ceren gave the Qataris an immediate counterattack opportunity. Abdulaziz Hatem sent a through ball to the edge of the box for Almoez Ali and the striker calmly beat Mario Gonzalez for the early goal, his third in four Gold Cup games.
Qatar followed with an absolute screamer only a few minutes later. Hatem, who isn't known as a goalscorer, tried his luck from 20 yards out. The 30-year-old from Qatari club Al Rayyan launched the ball past Gonzalez and into the upper left-hand corner to set the game's tone.
El Salvador gave Qatar another chance to get on the scoresheet after a penalty was given due to a handball inside the box in the second half. Ceren's extended arm blocked an Almoez Ali shot and the referee pointed to the spot following a Video Review. Ali took the penalty himself and netted his fourth goal of the Gold Cup, making him the tournament's top scorer.
El Salvador restored some belief with a goal in the 63rd minute. Amando Moreno sent a ball that broke Qatar's backline and made its way inside the box. Joaquin Rivas beat Qatari keeper Meshaal Barsham to the pass, found an opening between his legs and gave his team the goal they had been waiting for.
Lifted by the El Salvador-heavy crowd, the Central American side found a second goal within seconds. El Salvador regained possession thanks to an aggressive tackle by Bryan Tamacas inside the Qatari box. The fullback sent the ball over to Rivas, leaving the striker an open net to tap the ball into and cut their deficit to one goal.
Rivas then thought he found his crowning achievement, a hat-trick goal to tie things up. However, as he found the back of the net, the FC Tulsa attacker saw that the linesman had raised his flag and called the play offside.
Rivas had a second golden opportunity to get his hat-trick in second-half stoppage time. This time, Barsham stood tall and blocked the Salvadorians from forcing extra time.
- 2' – QAT – Almoez Ali
- 8' – QAT – Abdulaziz Hatem
- 55' – QAT – Almoez Ali (PK)
- 63' – SLV – Joaquin Rivas
- 66 – SLV – Joaquin Rivas
- THE BIG PICTURE: Qatar cut it closer than they initially thought after cruising through most of the game. Two La Selecta goals caused quite the scare, but the men in maroon found a way to defend their way into a 3-2 win. Qatar will be looking to continue their North American journey and become the first invite nation to win the Gold Cup. In the process, the Hugo Perez-led El Salvadorian side proved they'll be a handful in Concacaf World Cup qualifiers.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Abdulaziz Hatem launched an absolute screamer that put Qatar up 2-0 on El Salvador within the first eight minutes of play.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Abdulaziz Hatem not only scored one of the best goals of the tournament. He was also involved in Qatar's tremendous play in the first half with his passing and defensive efforts.
- QAT: Concacaf Gold Cup semifinals vs. TBD | Thursday, June 29 | 7:30 pm ET (FS1)
- SLV: End of tournament