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Asian Cup 2019: Al-Shami Derby sees Jordan face Syria Open in fullscreen

Uri Levy

Asian Cup 2019: Al-Shami Derby sees Jordan face Syria

Jordan managed a surprise win against their neighbour, Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 January, 2019

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Neighbours Jordan and Syria clashed on Thursday, with high-anticipation from supporters of both sides.

The second round of matches in the Asian Cup kicked-off in style on Thursday, with some interesting games among the teams from the Middle East competing in groups A and B.

The first game of the day saw Bahrain - who surprised many with a 1-1 draw in their first game - lost to Thailand one goal-to-nil, following a single goal from Chanathip Sogkrasin - "the Thai Messi". It was a match that Bahrain manager, Miroslav Sokoup, and his players would probably rather forget.

The day's second game featured one of the surprise team's of the tournament, Jordan, who shocked the football world with a dramatic win against Australia in their opening match.

On Thursday, they played their neighbours - Syria - in a modern-day Shami Derby. Syria - one of the rising powers in West Asian football in recent years - took part in an outstanding World Cup qualifiers campaign between 2015 to 2018. They were the clear favourites when they entered the match against this Jordan, but it seems that no team can be counted on, as such, in this tournament.

The combative unit of Belgian coach Vital Borkelmans marked the match from an early stage, and simply demolished the Syrian defence in the first-half. Amer Shafi, the legendary goalkeeper - who was one of the heroes in the victory against the Socceroos - was excellent yet again, but the main figure was, as expected, Musa Al-Taamari, the young starlet from APOEL Nicosia.

Al-Taamari created havoc in Syria's half and scored a goal in a counter-attack in the 26th minute. Sixteen minutes later it was already 2-0, when Tareq Zayed headed home a corner from Al-Taamari, and Jordan went into half-time with a huge advantage over their neighbours.

In the second half, Syria tried to create some chances through "The Two Omars" - Omar Al-Somah and Omar Khribin. But their attempts on goal were weak and not accurate enough. Jordan were the better team and rightly won.

Who would have believed before the tournament that Jordan, of all teams, would be the first team to qualify for the last eight? Much respect must go to Shafi, al-Taamari and Borkelmans. The Nashama ("brave men") are the stuff legends in this tournament.

Read also: Asia Cup 2019 - Your guide to the Middle East's teams

In the final match of the day, the UAE played against India in Al-Ain - a special match in the tournament given the large Indian population in the country. The atmosphere in the stadium was no less than a Kolkata derby, with a few thousand Indians coming out to support their national team against their tournament's hosts.

All looked well for the Blue Tigers at the beginning, with a few great chances, but on the verge of the half-time whistle the UAE's Khalfan Mubarak made a silky move and hit the ball in Gurpreet Singh's upper net, making it 1-0 to the Emirates.

India kept pushing for an equaliser, but Emirati goalkeeper Khalid Eisa and the inaccuracy by Sunil Chhetri, who couldn't find the back of the net, combined to keep the UAE ahead.

In the 88th minute, Ali Mabkhout scored from a close range shot, after taking India's defence for a walk. Two-nil to the UAE, with group A now heating up with every team with a chance of qualifying for the knockouts or going home - including the hosts.

The Asian Cup is on fire!
 

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.

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