Iraq and Iran quarter-final heads to extra time

Iraq and Iran quarter-final heads to extra time
By Reuters

23/01/2015 at 09:36Updated 23/01/2015 at 09:45

Iraq fought back from a goal down to finish level at 1-1 with a 10-man Iran at the end of regulation time in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup on Friday.

Iran led 1-0 at halftime after Sardar Azmoun scored a brilliant goal in the 24th minute but Ahmed Yasin equalised for Iraq in the 56th minute.

Iran were forced to spend the second half defending after Mehrdad Pooladi was sent off just before the interval.

Pooladi was shown the red card by Australian referee Ben Williams after being booked twice, the first time for a rash tackle and the second for taking a dive and wasting time.

With their one-man advantage, Iraq attacked Iran from the opening whistle in the second half and almost equalised through a ferocious, dipping free kick from Yaser Kasim, that the Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi did well to tip over the bar.

Iran did not give up a single goal in their three group matches but their resistance was finaly broken when Iraq drew level at Canberra Stadium.

Alaa Abdul Zahra, returning to the Iraqi team after suspension, broke free down the left and whipped in a cross that beat everyone except Yasin, who fired it back through a crowded six-yard box and into the net.

The teams will play 30 minutes of extra-time and if there is still no winner they will go a penalty shootout. The eventual victor will face South Korea in the semi-finals.

As expected, there was a heavy police presence in Australia's national capital for the clash between the two Middle Eastern neighbours and tensions were high on and off the pitch.

What the match lacked in skill, it made up for in drama with Williams handing out seven yellow cards.

Azmoun, picked to start at striker ahead of Reza Choochannejhad, vindicated his coach's decision to let him lead Iran's attack with his first half goal.

Aged just 20 and standing 1.78 metres (5ft 10in) tall, Azmoun climbed above two defenders to connect with Vouria Ghafouri's cross from the right and steer the ball past Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hassan into the net.

Pooladi was initially booked for hacking down Yasin mideway through the first half then received a second yellow card just minutes before the break after a bizarre incident.

Pooladi fell to the ground after Hassan lightly pushed him and Williams booked the Iranian.

But Williams initially appeared to forget that he already shown Pooladi a yellow card and it was only after the Iraqi players protested that he reached into his pocket and pulled out the red.