AFC U-16: Oman joins Iraq in last eight after late drama

Oman struck in injury time against Iraq to seal its place in the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship at the expense of the Korea Republic which, despite a 3-0 victory over Malaysia, was eliminated.

Oman and Iraq in action at the AFC U-16 Championship.   -  AFC

Arshad Al Alawi's stoppage time goal ensured Oman topped Group C and progressed to the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship 2016 in India along with Thursday's opponent Iraq in dramatic circumstances after a 1-1 draw.

Korea Republic had edged ahead of Oman on goals scored - thanks to its 3-0 lead over Malaysia in the group's other tie played simultaneously at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium - as the game at GMC Stadium entered its dying minutes.

And Oman, which began the tie on top of Group C, had faced elimination after Mohammed Dawood's first half opener for Iraq.

But just as it looked like time was running out for the team from the Sultanate, Al Alawi broke into the area to fire home and flip the script on its head and send Oman back to the top of the group ahead of Iraq on goal difference with Korea Republic, which moments earlier had been through to the quarterfinals, eliminated from the competition.

With a draw enough for both teams to progress to the knockout stages irrespective of the result in Group C's other tie, the first half-hour saw few clear-cut chances for either side.

Nevertheless, it was Iraq who took the lead with eight minutes remaining before the break. Ali Ahmed's long ball over the top saw Oman goalkeeper Yousuf Al Sheyadi and his defenders hesitate and allow Alaa Adnan to nip in and push the ball past the exposed custodian, where the overlapping Dawood was on hand to slot home into the empty net.

With Korea Republic leading against Malaysia at the interval, Oman needed at least another goal to ensure its place in the last eight and just five minutes into the second period, Thamir Al Zaabi drilled inches wide from the edge of the penalty area after he chested down a high pass from Al Alawi.

As the clock neared 90 minutes, it looked like Oman had passed up its final chance as a Muatasim Al Bakari header from Khalid Al Baraa's cross grazed the wrong side of the woodwork.

But there was still to be a dramatic end to the tie. Into added time, striker Al Alawai picked up the ball outside the penalty area and kept on going, rounding three Iraqi defenders and, despite the acute angle, placed the ball across Ibadi and into the opposite corner of the net to end the match, and Group C, in the most extraordinary fashion.

Korea Republic was eliminated from the AFC U-16 Championship despite a 3-0 victory over Malaysia which proved too little too late to secure a top-two finish in Group C.

Needing a high-scoring win to have any realistic hope of quarter-final qualification, the 2014 runner-up stormed into a two-goal lead inside 15 minutes at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as Park Jeong-in and a penalty from Cheon Seong-hoon put them in a commanding half-time position.

The East Asians then struggled to create goalscoring chances after the interval before captain Ko Jun-hee nodded home with six minutes remaining as Korea Republic looked set to clinch the runner-up spot.

But Oman netted a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Iraq in Thursday’s other Group C clash to top the standings and ensure it was the West Asian sides who progressed to the quarter-finals after finishing a point ahead of the Koreans.

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