Late goal sends Iran to top of Group C in Asian Cup
Brisbane, Jan 19 (IANS) A stoppage-time winner from substitute Reza Ghoochannejhad sent Iran to the top of Group C in the Asian Cup football tournament with an entertaining 1-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Monday.
Needing a win to qualify for the quarter-finals as group toppers, Iran were made to wait for the moment they soared above their opponents, with Ghoochannejhad coming off the bench to nod home a close range winner, reports Xinhua.
In the coinciding fixture, a late goal from Sayed Ahmed Jaafar ensured that Bahrain would end the tournament in a positive fashion, beating Qatar 2-1 in Sydney. But it was merely a dead rubber, as both teams were already out of the competition.
Even though they only needed a draw to progress to the top of Group C, the UAE did not rest on their laurels. Khamis Esmaeel lined up a swerving 30-yard effort and had Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi scrambling, but the shot flew narrowly wide.
In an entertaining contest, Iran was the next to go forward. Soroush Rafiei's threaded pass sent Sardar Azmoun through on goal, only for the striker to be foiled by the onrushing Majed Naser.
Iran were on top, peppering the UAE goal, but finding it difficult to beat Naser. Their next chance occurred soon after, when Alireza Jahanbakhsh met Vahid Ameri' s cross, only to head straight at the keeper.
Iran nearly claimed the lead late in the first half when Azmoun's far-post header seemed destined for the back of the net, only for Emirati defender Mohanad Al Enezi to make a desperate last ditch block on the line.
It meant both sides went to the interval scoreless, with the United Arab Emirates still sitting atop Group C for the time being.
Meanwhile, there might have been less riding on the contest in Sydney but it was still an intriguing battle with both sides looking to finish the tournament with a flourish.
Qatar's Mohammed Tresor got on the end of Hasan Al Haydos's cross, only to crash his effort against the upright.
However, it was the less fancied Bahrain doing the majority of the early running, with Sayed Shubbar also striking the post following Abdulwahab Al Malood's inch-perfect cross.
Shubbar wouldn't live to regret the missed chance, giving Bahrain the lead moments later. The winger produced a calm finish on the turn to reward Faouzi Aaish's fine individual run.
Qatar were slowly working their way back into the match and twice should have had an equaliser early in the second period. Both Ali Asadalla and Mohammed Muntari missed golden chances, as Bahrain's lead began to look all the more insecure.
Eventually, the pressure paid, with Qatar finding a deserved equaliser through Al Haydos. The impressive winger curled a 20-yard free kick beyond the lunging Hamad Al Doseri to make it 1-1 with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Ultimately, Bahrain would make Qatar lament their profligacy, when Jaafar stole a long range winner against the run of play.