Five-star Iran purr as China, Korea survive scares at Asian Cup

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Iran’s forward Sardar Azmoun, right, celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Group D game between Yemen and Iran at the Mohammed Bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
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Iran’s forward Sardar Azmoun celebrates after scoring his side’s fourth goal during the AFC Asian Cup group D game against Yemen at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. (AP Photo)
Updated 08 January 2019
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Five-star Iran purr as China, Korea survive scares at Asian Cup

  • Looking to end a 43-year title drought since last winning Asian football’s most coveted prize, Iran ruthlessly dispatched Group D minnows Yemen
  • South Korea scraped past the Philippines while China profited from a goalkeeping howler to spark a comeback against plucky Kyrgyzstan

ABU DHABI: Mehdi Taremi scored twice as Iran crushed Yemen 5-0 in the war-torn country’s Asian Cup debut on Monday to fire an ominous warning to their title rivals.
Team Melli’s dominant performance in Abu Dhabi was in stark contrast to joint-favorites South Korea, who scraped past the Philippines while China profited from a goalkeeping howler to spark a comeback against plucky Kyrgyzstan.
Looking to end a 43-year title drought since last winning Asian football’s most coveted prize, Iran ruthlessly dispatched Group D minnows Yemen.
Iran took just 12 minutes to take the lead as Taremi finished clinically from close range after a shot from Sardar Azmoun was spilled by Yemen keeper Saud Alsowadi.
Captain Ashkan Dejagah doubled his side’s lead in the 23rd minute with a low free kick which cannoned in off the post and the hapless Alsowadi before Taremi powered home a bullet header moments later.
Sardar Azmoun tapped in a fourth goal seven minutes into the second half, by which time Iran were playing some champagne football, pulling off extravagant flicks and back-heels that left Yemen’s players chasing shadows.
When substitute Saman Ghoddos volleyed home Iran’s fifth from the edge of the box after 78 minutes the Yemen players looked physically shattered and only the woodwork prevented Mahdi Torabi adding a spectacular sixth in injury time.
A day after holders Australia were stunned 1-0 by Jordan, South Korea, still awaiting the arrival of Tottenham forward Son Heung-min, left it late before beating the Philippines by the same scoreline.
Fellow debutants Kyrgyzstan led China 1-0 at half-time but they were left to rue a costly error by goalkeeper Pavel Matiash, whose embarrassing own goal put the Chinese on course for a 2-1 win.
After hosts UAE were held by Bahrain, and Syria were kept to a goalless draw by Palestine, it provided more evidence that the gap has narrowed between Asian teams.
Separately, Thailand’s Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac paid the price for yet another shock result when he was given his marching orders following Sunday’s 4-1 defeat to India.
“Like all Thai football fans across the country, I am also disappointed with the result,” Thailand’s FA president Somyot Poompanmoung said, explaining the rapid dismissal.
“But as president of the football association, I cannot stand still with this problem.”
Kyrgyzstan looked capable of pulling off an almighty upset against China when Akhlidin Israilov smashed home the opening goal just before half-time in Al Ain.
But China profited from the howler of the tournament so far when Matiash, attempting to claw a defensive header over the bar, batted it over the line instead.
A Chinese winner looked inevitable and it was Yu who completed the turnaround, rounding Matiash and scoring from a tight angle 12 minutes from time.
Lippi, who is expected to leave his post at the end of the Asian Cup, said he was “enormously unhappy” at China’s first half performance, but proud of their revival.
“During the first half we weren’t playing well, and I thought if we keep playing like that we’re going to lose the match,” said the 2006 World Cup-winning coach.
“After the reaction from my players in the second half, I’m happy that we won the three points.”
Later in Dubai, prolific goal poacher Hwang Ui-jo snatched a second-half winner as South Korea beat Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Philippines, who impressed on their tournament debut.
The Koreans, looking to end 59 years of hurt after failing to win the title since 1960, soaked up considerable pressure in their opening Group C fixture before Hwang broke the deadlock after 67 minutes.
The Japan-based striker swivelled and smashed home from close range to settle his side’s nerves after Newcastle midfielder Ki Sung-yueng limped off with a suspected hamstring injury.
South Korea, who will be boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son after their first two games, joined China on three points at the top of the group.
The Koreans, runners-up to hosts Australia four years ago, were indebted to goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu, who plunged to his right to deny Javier Patino in the 54th minute.
But Hwang, whose tournament-high nine goals helped South Korea win last year’s Asian Games title, came to the rescue with a piece of magic in the box and was unlucky not to add further goals as the favorites finished strongly.


Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

Updated 17 June 2019
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Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

  • Conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd 

MANCHESTER, UK: For such an intense rivalry, it is still a lopsided contest when India and Pakistan meet at the Cricket World Cup.

India extended their record to 7-0 against Pakistan at the World Cup with an 89-run victory in a rain-interrupted encounter Sunday that likely will remain the most-watched game of the six-week tournament.

India started ominously with Rohit Sharma scoring 140 from 113 deliveries and skipper Virat Kohli contributing 77 in a total of 336-5, a record for a One-Day International at Old Trafford.

Pakistan were always behind the run-rate required.

Fakhar Zaman (62) and Babar Azam (48) put on 104 for the second wicket but when both were dismissed by left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav within nine balls, Pakistan’s hopes faded with them.

When Hardik Pandya took wickets with consecutive deliveries in the 27th over, Pakistan were 129-5. And with a result in play because both teams had batted more than 20 overs, there was no chance of sharing points if rain prevented any more play. A delay after the 35th with Pakistan at 166-6 just prolonged the inevitable.

Pakistan were  set a revised target of 302 from 40 overs and the last five overs were a non-event with Pakistan finishing 212-6. India remained unbeaten in four games to start the tournament.

The conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd that filled the 162-year-old venue to its 23,500 capacity. Seats were in excessively high demand, after all, with the International Cricket Council reporting more than 800,000 ticket applications for the game.

There is always extra significance when the nuclear-armed neighboring countries meet at ICC tournaments because India and Pakistan play cricket so infrequently in bilateral series.

This was no different, with a 1 billion-plus TV audience and an almost football-like atmosphere at the ground.

Kohli’s single to get off the mark was met by “Kohli-Kohli-Kohli” chants from the predominantly pro-India crowd.

Sharma set the tone with his second century of the tournament, sharing partnerships of 136 with KL Rahul (57) for the first wicket and 98 with Kohli for the second.

He seemed ready to really unleash when he needlessly paddled a ball from Hasan Ali to Wahab Riaz at short fine leg in the 38th over.

Kohli continued, becoming the third Indian batter to pass 11,000 ODI runs. In doing so in his 222nd innings, he became the fastest to reach the milestone.

Kohli was on 71 and India was 305-4 when rain stopped play for the first time in the 47th over. The India captain was caught behind off Mohammad Amir’s bowling not long after he returned from the 55-minute rain break and, surprisingly, walked off before umpire Marais Erasmus had a chance to signal him out.

There was some speculation Kohli did not edge the ball but it was inconsequential in the end, as India passed Sri Lanka’s 318-7 against England in 2006 to set the highest ODI total in Manchester.

After a batting onslaught at the top, Pakistan pegged back the run-rate slightly as Amir (3-47) dismissed Pandya (26) and then had MS Dhoni (1) and Kohli caught behind — both the ex-captain and captain walking.

Things started going haywire for Pakistan after skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed won the toss and fielded, going against the advice sent via social media by Prime Minister and 1992 World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan.

Overcast and cool overhead conditions that usually would favor swing and seam bowling didn’t greatly assist the Pakistan attack, with India racing to 52-0 in its most productive opening power play of the tournament.

The Pakistan pacemen had trouble with the umpires, with Amir and Wahab each cautioned twice for running on the protected area in the middle of the pitch. One further warning would have resulted in a suspension.

It also didn’t help that opener Imam-ul-Haq got out in rare circumstances to Vijay Shankar’s very first delivery at a World Cup — it coming on the fifth ball of Pakistan’s fifth over after Shankar was asked to finish it off for injured teammate Bhuveshwar Kumar.

Pakistan’s next game is at Lord’s against South Africa, which also has three points and only remote prospects of reaching the semifinals.