Fri, Feb 09, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Japan shut out Bahrain, Iran dominate Thailand

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Japan yesterday shut out Bahrain to join reigning champions Iran in today’s semi-finals of the Asian Football Confederation Futsal Championship in Taipei, with Uzbekistan and Iraq also advancing.

The Samurai Warriors scored two goals and the defense held firm in the 2-0 victory, while Iran thrashed Thailand 9-1, Uzbekistan overcame a strong challenge by Vietnam 3-1 and Iraq prevailed in a penalty shoot-out over Lebanon in yesterday’s quarter-finals.

In the afternoon matches, 11-time title holders Iran dominated from the start against Thailand, but it was a tense affair between Iraq and Lebanon.

Iran’s starters dashed out of the gate to grab the opening goal inside 10 seconds, when Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh connected on a long pass inside the circle to Ahmed Esmaeilpour, who side-footed into the net.

That opened the floodgates for Iran, with Esmaeilpour scoring a second goal, followed by Hassanzadeh, and Hossein Tayebi increased the lead to 4-0 seven minutes into the first half at the Sinjhuang Gymnasium in New Taipei City.

Tayebi completed a brace in the 17th minute with a quick shot at the top of the circle to extend Iran’s lead to 5-0 heading into the intermission, leaving a deflated Thailand unable to find answers against the devastating attack.

Iran did not let up in the second half, putting four more past Thailand goalkeeper Kanison Phooun, with Jirawat Sornwichian scoring a lone goal for Thailand to avoid a whitewash.

“We took advantage of Thailand’s mistakes to score quickly at the start, and we kept up the pace to get more goals. It was a good win for our team,” Iran head coach Mohammed Nazemasharieh said.

“We analyzed Thailand’s performance in this and other tournaments, and I told them to focus on the game and have better concentration. Thailand have been one of the best teams in Asia, and have been one of Iran’s rivals since 20 years ago, and we really respect them,” he said.

“We have a vision: it started in Colombia in 2016. We started with some new players and are aiming for the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup. We are not only representatives of Iran in that competition, but of Asia as well,” he added.

It was a very different story at the University of Taipei’s Tianmu campus, where fans saw a closely fought battle between Iraq and Lebanon.

By halftime, the match was even at 1-1 after a goal by Iraq ace Salim Faisal and the equalizer by Lebanon captain Kasem Kousam.

Lebanon then inched in front with a strike by Ali Tneich, only for Faisal to score his second goal to equalize at 2-2.

Unable to break the deadlock in extra-time, the match went to penalties.

The spot kicks were nerve-wracking for both sides, going to the 20th player, before Iraq goalkeeper Zaber Mahdi celebrated with teammates after his sliding block denied an attempt by Lebanon’s Mustafa Rhyem.

“This is a historic day for Iraq,” head coach Haitham Abbas said after the game. “We did concede some goals through some mistakes, but nevertheless, it’s a celebration day for Iraq at home and here among the players. We were all waiting for this moment, waiting to get into the semi-final and finally we did it.”

“You can see the development of the Iraqi team in the results of the national team and the club teams, it’s all thanks to the development done by the federation back home to help get this team to among the final four sides in Asia,” he added.

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