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Tajikistan's Thrilling Comeback Secures Last-16 Spot in Asian Cup

 Tajikistan's Thrilling Comeback Secures Last-16 Spot in Asian Cup

Tajikistan's forward #25 Nuriddin Khamrokulov
Tajikistan's forward #25 Nuriddin Khamrokulov celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group A football match between Tajikistan and Lebanon at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on January 22, 2024. (Image-Getty)

In a thrilling turn of events, Asian Cup debutants Tajikistan secured a spot in the last 16 with a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory over 10-man Lebanon in Group A on Monday. Despite having two goals disallowed by VAR and falling behind 1-0, Tajikistan displayed relentless determination.

Parvizdzhon Umarbayev, the team's skipper, ignited the comeback in the 80th minute with a sensational free-kick that found the top corner, leveling the score. The defining moment came in added time when Nuriddin Khamrokulov's skillful effort soared over goalkeeper Mostafa Matar, sealing a historic win for Tajikistan. This victory secured their second-place finish in the group with four points, trailing table-toppers Qatar.

Lebanon initially took the lead two minutes into the second half, courtesy of Bassel Jradi's curled shot from the edge of the box, eliciting cheers from the crowd. However, Lebanon's fortunes took a downturn in the 56th minute when Kassem El Zein received a red card after VAR intervened, upgrading his initial yellow card for a stamp to a sending-off.

Meanwhile, group leaders Qatar, having already secured a last-16 berth, opted to rest key players but still managed a 1-0 victory against China. Captain Hassan Al-Haydos delivered the winning goal with a spectacular volley from a corner in the 66th minute, ensuring maximum points for the hosts.

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