Sat, Jan 24, 2015 - Page 20 News List

UAE stun holders Japan


Iraq’s Marwan Hussein, second right, clatters into Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi, center, in their Asian Cup quarter-final in Canberra yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Japan were sent crashing out of the Asian Cup yesterday as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) shocked the defending champions 5-4 on penalties after a pulsating quarter-final.

Substitute Ismail Ahmed delivered the knockout blow after Japan’s Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa had both missed their spot-kicks, sending the UAE through to the last four after a war of attrition in Sydney that finished 1-1 after extra-time.

The Gulf side, enjoying their best run at the Asian Cup since finishing runners-up in 1996, face hosts Australia in the semi-finals after their stunning victory over the Blue Samurai.

The UAE exploded from the blocks, striker Ali Mabkhout smashing home a fierce volley after just seven minutes for his fourth goal of the tournament, but refusing to celebrate out of respect for Saudi King Abdullah, who died earlier in the day.

With Japan teetering on the brink of a shock defeat, substitute Gaku Shibasaki rifled in an equalizer from the edge of the area after 81 minutes following a neat layoff from Honda.

Captain Makoto Hasebe and Honda all came close as Japan threw everything at their obdurate opponents, Kagawa again firing wide with the last kick before the referee blew to signal the end of 90 minutes.

Japan, who captured a record fourth Asian Cup in 2011, almost snatched the winner when Shibasaki’s free-kick flashed wide, but the UAE hung on to force a shootout where, of all people, Honda and Kagawa gifted Ahmed the chance to become a hero.

In the earlier quarter-final, Iraq stunned 10-man Iran 7-6 in another dramatic penalty shootout to reach the last four.

Defender Salam Shakir was Iraq’s hero, keeping his cool to put away the decisive kick after a marathon shootout and send his team into a semi-final clash with South Korea.

In a sensational encounter at Canberra Stadium, the sides were locked at 1-1 at full-time, before Iran twice came from behind in extra-time to force penalties.

Iran had been a man down since Mehrdad Pooladi was sent off for a second yellow card late in the first half, sparking a furious reaction from coach Carlos Queiroz, but their heroics were in vain when Vahid Amiry struck the post with the 15th spot-kick and Shakir stepped up to coolly slot the winner for the 2007 champions.

Iran started well and Sardar Azmoun powered a header past goalkeeper Jalal Hassan for a 1-0 lead on 24 minutes, before they were were controversially reduced to 10 men.

A rejuvenated Iraq made their numerical advantage count after the break when Ahmed Yaseen drove in a low shot at the back post to make it 1-1 on 56 minutes.

As the second half progressed, players were starting to wilt in the 32?C heat and were taking every opportunity to stop for water.

Iran hung on until extra-time, when Iraq captain Younis Mahmoud, scorer of the winner in the 2007 final, headed his side 2-1 in front.

Iran leveled through Morteza Pouraliganji’s header — but the defender’s joy was short-lived as he conceded a penalty by clattering into Yaser Kasim, which Dhurgham Ismael dispatched.

It looked all over, but Iran substitute Reza Ghoochannejhad headed in from close range less than two minutes from the end of extra-time to force penalties.

Both sides missed their opening spot-kicks but then scored six each, before Shakir took full advantage of Amiry’s miss for Iran.

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