ABU DHABI: Title-chasing Iran survived a first-minute penalty in a chaotic start to eventually dispatch Oman 2-0 and reach the Asian Cup quarter-finals on Sunday. Beanpole goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand saved from the spot before goals from Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Ashkan Dejagah in Abu Dhabi sent Iran through to face China.
Beiranvand saved a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty at last year’s World Cup and plunged to his right to brilliantly deny Oman captain Ahmed Al-Mahaijri, preventing Oman taking a shock lead moments into the game.
“To be honest, I thought of Cristiano for a fraction of a second before the kick,” Beiranvand told AFP. “I didn’t want people to think that save in Russia was a fluke. But saving penalties is my job and my responsibility is to help the team.” Iran, who are looking to end a 43-year-old Asian Cup title drought, broke through after 32 minutes when Brighton forward Jahanbakhsh latched onto a hopeful long ball to poke the ball past Oman goalkeeper Faiyz Al-Rusheidi.
“Team Melli” captain Dejagah lashed home a penalty four minutes before the break after Mehdi Taremi had been brought down. Beiranvand produced an acrobatic save to keep out Muhsen Al-Ghassani’s long-range strike just before the half-time whistle.
Sardar Azmoun—dubbed the “Iranian Messi”—twice fluffed his lines after the interval when it looked easier to score. Taremi subsequently squandered two gilt-edged chances, but Iran were never seriously troubled by an error-prone Oman side.
“It’s the first time in my life one team has conceded a penalty in the first minute,” said Iran coach Carlos Queiroz. “We need to play with a killer instinct. It’s important to kill the game when you have the opportunity,” added the former Real Madrid boss.
“Football is a hell of a job for players and coaches to be honest with you.” Oman coach Pim Verbeek paid tribute to his players after the Gulf champions reached the Asian Cup knockout stage for the first time.
“I’m very proud of my players,” said the Dutchman. “They had a fantastic tournament and should not be ashamed to lose to a team like Iran.” But China, runners-up in 1984 and 2004, hit back through substitute Xiao Zhi and Gao Lin’s thumping penalty 20 minutes from time to set up a meeting with Iran.
“I’m happy with the reaction of the players,” said Lippi, who is expected to step down after the Asian Cup. “We’re in the quarter-finals which is an important step—now let’s see.” – AFP