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Goalkeeper Qatar's hero, Iran stun Japan to set up Asian Cup semi

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/qatar/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Qatar;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Qatar</a>'s players lift goalkeeper <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/players/1646415/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Meshaal Barsham;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Meshaal Barsham</a> into the air (KARIM JAAFAR)

Goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham was Qatar's hero as the hosts and holders beat Uzbekistan 3-2 on penalties on Saturday to propel them into an Asian Cup semi-final with Japan's conquerors Iran.

Barsham saved three times in the penalty shootout after the quarter-final with Uzbekistan ended 1-1 following 120 minutes of stalemate.

Pedro Miguel slotted in the winning penalty for Qatar in front of almost 60,000 fans at the tent-like Al-Bayt Stadium north of Doha.

The triumphant Qatar players tossed Barsham in the air at the end.

"With penalties there is some anticipation and there is some luck," said Barsham, who was also fortunate that the three he saved were weak efforts from Uzbekistan.

Qatar had won their four previous games at the tournament but they were given a stiffer test by Uzbekistan, who some had tipped as dark horses to lift the trophy.

Qatar opened the scoring midway through the first half when captain Hassan Al-Haydos forced an own goal from Utkir Yusupov, the goalkeeper flapping the ball into his own net.

Uzbekistan levelled just before the hour when Odiljon Hamrobekov broke free of the Qatar defence and drilled a shot into the corner of the net.

Both teams had chances to snatch a winner in second-half injury time, and Qatar's Almoez Ali also went close as extra time drew to a frantic close.

Qatar coach Tintin Marquez, who took over from Carlos Queiroz only a month before the tournament, said they had "not accomplished anything yet" as they prepare to face Iran on Wednesday.

"Of course it is a very big match that awaits us but first we need to recover because the game went into extra time," said the Spaniard.

His Uzbek counterpart Srecko Katanec was proud of his team but said they "should have scored before so that we didn't go to penalties".

"Penalties are always tricky, especially mentally," he said, calling his men "tired and mentally exhausted".

The first semi-final is on Tuesday when Son Heung-min's South Korea face Jordan.

- Iran late show -

Alireza Jahanbakhsh scored a 96th-minute penalty to give Iran a dramatic 2-1 win over Japan in their quarter-final.

It capped a stunning comeback from Iran, who were behind at the break but roared back to dump out the pre-tournament favourites and keep alive their dream of a first Asian title since 1976.

Hidemasa Morita gave Japan, who were looking to lift the trophy for a record-extending fifth time, the lead midway through the first half in front of 36,000 at Education City Stadium.

Mohammad Mohebi drew Iran -- themselves champions three times -- level 10 minutes after half-time and they dominated the remainder of the game.

But just when it looked like extra time, Kou Itakura brought Hossein Kanaanizadegan down in the box and skipper Jahanbakhsh held his nerve to spark delirium on the pitch and in the stands.

Iran coach Amir Ghalenoei said his players were "fantastic" in the second half.

"They gave everything for the Iranian people," he said.

"This can be a turning point for Iranian football."

Ghalenoei, whose side squeezed through on penalties over Syria in the last 16, took a potshot at critics back home.

"I am not saying criticism is not good, but some people in the last 11 months tried to ruin the national team," he said.

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said his side must improve "in many aspects" and took full responsibility for their premature exit.

"I feel sorry for our supporters and everyone involved in Japanese football," said Moriyasu.

pst/mw