Penalty controversy as Japan stun Iran in Asian semis

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Yuya Osako scores from the penalty spot during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup semifinal match between Iran and Japan at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, in Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
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Japan's Yuya Osako, left, celebrates one of his two goals with teammates during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup semi-final match between Iran and Japan at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, in Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
Updated 28 January 2019
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Penalty controversy as Japan stun Iran in Asian semis

  • Yuya Osako scored twice in the second half, including a VAR-assisted penalty, and Genki Haraguchi netted in injury time to complete an emphatic win
  • Japan will play either Qatar or hosts the United Arab Emirates in Friday’s final in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: Japan cashed in on a defensive mix-up and a controversial penalty as they stunned favourites Iran 3-0 in the Asian Cup semi-finals to move one win away from their fifth title on Monday.

Yuya Osako put Japan 1-0 up after half-time when the Iranian defence fatally stopped to remonstrate with the referee, and then stroked home the penalty awarded after a replay for Morteza Pouraliganji's accidental hand ball.

Genki Haraguchi then scored in stoppage time to complete a rout which had been wholly unexpected against a free-scoring Iran side which had banged in 12 unanswered goals en route to the semis.

It was the last hurrah for Iran's long-serving coach Carlos Queiroz, who is leaving the team after nearly eight years at the helm, a reign that has included two World Cups.

Queiroz said the "innocent mistake" that led to the opening goal, when players surrounded the referee as Japan played on and scored, "destroyed (them) emotionally".

"My players stopped and everyone was expecting the referee to take action for that incident," he said, referring to a challenge on Takumi Minamino on the edge of the box.

"That moment created an emotional breakdown for my team and after that there was only one team on the pitch."

Eleven minutes later, Minamino's cross hit Pouraliganji's arm as he slid in, but Australian referee Chris Beath blew for the penalty and stood by his decision after watching a replay.

Osako stroked home the spot-kick to give Japan a 2-0 lead with 23 minutes to play, and there was no coming back for Iran whose 43-year wait for a fourth Asian title goes on.

COACH HAILS UNDERDOGS 

"My players had good preparation and showed great fighting spirit. They played as underdogs," said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu, whose team will play Qatar or hosts the United Arab Emirates in Friday's final.

"I'm happy they showed that spirit and fight, and delivered a win for the fans back home."

Queiroz's Iran have been the form team of the Asian Cup but they lacked ideas on Monday against a calm Japanese team who seized their opportunities.

At a rocking Hazza Bin Stadium, Iran lobbed balls at target man Sardar Azmoun at every opportunity but it was Japan who looked the biggest threat in the opening exchanges.

Captain Maya Yoshida headed over and Ritsu Doan saw a shot trickle wide as the Blue Samurai were anything but cowed by the physical Iran presence.

However, Shuichi Gonda had to be sharp to keep out Azmoun from a tight angle — after the goalkeeper had gifted Iran possession with a botched clearance.

The game was on a knife-edge but a major misjudgement from the Iranian defence tilted it decisively Japan's way 11 minutes after half-time.

While five players were protesting Hossein Kanani's innocence over his tackle on Minamino, the forward got up and crossed to Osako, whose glancing header put Japan ahead.

It was a body-blow for Iran, but worse was to come when Pouraliganji was adjudged to have handled in the box, a decision that could have gone either way.

Osako stuck it away to all but silence the Iranian support, who then had to watch as Haraguchi stole in for the third goal to make it a lopsided victory for Japan.

Japan will be buoyed by their best performance of the tournament so far, and with a 100 percent record they shape as formidable opponents in Friday's final.


Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

Updated 25 March 2019
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Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

  • Five-year old bidding to become first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups.
  • $12 million race takes place at Meydan on Saturday.

LONDON: Thunder Snow is preparing well as he bids to become the first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups, according to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
The five-year-old memorably won the showcase $12 million race at Meydan by five and three-quarter lengths, winning in a track record time last year. He returned to the track on Super Saturday two weeks ago, finishing second in the Group 1 Al-Maktoum Challenge Round Three.
And Godolphin are expecting big things from him in the famous race. Bin Suroor, the most successful handler in the history of the 2000m dirt feature with eight winners to his name, is feeling confident.
“He did his final serious piece of work on Saturday and went very well indeed,” the Godolphin trainer said. “He needed his Super Saturday outing — his first run since November — badly and has come on a lot for it. We expect him to run a big race under conditions we know suit him, but obviously it is a good race.”
Thunder Snow has already made history as the only horse to win both the Group 2 UAE Derby and Group 1 Dubai World Cup, but if he is to win this Saturday then he will be revered for years to come.
One of his big rivals in the race will be Yoshida. Trained by Bill Mott he arrived in Dubai on March 19 in preparation for the cash-rich race. The Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry landed in the Emirate off a sixth-place finish in the inaugural Group 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
He won the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, as well as the prestigious Woodward at Saratoga last year and Riley Mott, assistant to his father Bob, said Yoshida is looking good ahead of the big race.
“He’s settled in really well,” he said. “He traveled great and we’re very happy with him. The facilities here are top class. This is my seventh time over here and we’re treated very well.”
Yoshida went out just after 7:00 a.m. in Monday to stretch his legs over the famous dirt track.
“He just had a routine gallop this morning and we let him stand in the gate. Nothing too serious,” Mott said.
Jose Ortiz, who has piloted Yoshida though his last two starts and was aboard for the Grade 1 score at Churchill Downs, will make his first appearance in Dubai. Mott said he expects Ortiz, who guided Yoshida to a closing fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will have plenty of options in the 2000m race.
“It sounds like there’s a lot of pace from the local horses, but we have a horse that’s pretty versatile in the way he runs,” Mott said. “He’s able to adapt to the pace scenario. It’s just a matter of how the race develops in front of him.”