Iran became the first side to make the Asian Cup quarter-finals on Saturday after beating North Korea 1-0, while defending champions Iraq got a stoppage-time winner to heap misery on the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Three-time champions Iran are seeking to end a 35-year continental title drought and Karim Ansari Fard moved them a step closer with a 62nd--minute winner as Team Melli fought hard to crack a tight North Korea defense.
It put Iran on six points in Group D following their opening 2-1 victory over Iraq, guaranteeing them a spot in the last eight with one match to play.
Iraq was stunned when the UAE’s Walid Abbas put the ball into his own net in the third minute of added time to leave Iraq well placed in the race for the second qualifying berth.
They now have three points to the one of UAE and North Korea, setting the scene for a nail-biting final round of matches on Wednesday, when Iran play the UAE and Iraq face North Korea.
While Iran deserved the win, North Korea’s captain and FC Rostov midfielder Hong Yong-jo should have equalized in the dying seconds, but he sent his shot from close range against the bar to deny his side a precious point.
It was a close encounter, with Iran having to work hard to unlock the famously tight North Korea back line.
They struggled to break down the North’s resolve, but appeared to have opened the scoring in the 28th minute when Fard trapped a long ball in the box.
He beat North Korea’s defender Ri Jun-il and slotted the ball past North Korea’s goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk, but the linesman -disallowed the goal and Fard instead got a yellow card for handball.
Iran stepped up their offensive with a series of counter-attacks after the interval and in the 62nd minute Fard finally drew first blood, volleying in a cross that caught the goalkeeper wrong-footed.
The Iraq-UAE game looked destined for a draw before the unfortunate Walid Abbas turned the ball into his own goal in injury time.
“It was in injury time and an own-goal so it’s a bit lucky at the end, but we fought all the time and forced our luck,” Iraq’s German coach Wolfgang Sidka said. “We will enjoy this evening and from tomorrow we will start preparing for North Korea. We know we have our fate in our hands.”
Iraq had the better of the opening spell at al-Rayyan Stadium, without forcing keeper Majed Naser into action.
However, it was the UAE who had the first meaningful chance, defender Hamdan al-Kamali leaping highest to crash the ball against the post from an inswinging corner in front of a disappointing crowd of just over 7,000.
Moments later they should have taken the lead when forward Ismaeil Matar nodded the ball on for strike partner Ahmed Khalil, but the 2009 Asian young player of the year headed well over.
Six minutes before the break Iraq had their best chance when Nashat Akram crashed the ball against the bar with a towering header.
The second half was again sluggish in getting going, but when it did, Iraq looked most likely to break the deadlock.
With both sides badly needing the three points, they made a rash of substitutions to force the breakthrough and it was Iraq who benefited most.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two