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

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.


Title, not invincible tag, the most important goal for Salah

Updated 18 January 2020

Title, not invincible tag, the most important goal for Salah

LONDON: Mohamed Salah says Liverpool’s focus is solely on ending a 30-year wait to win the Premier League title, rather than doing so by going the whole season unbeaten.

Jurgen Klopp’s men have dropped just 2 points in 21 games to set a new record for Europe’s top five leagues of 61 points from a possible 63 to start the campaign.

That has propelled the European champions into a 14-point lead over title holders Manchester City with a game in hand, but Salah insists the Reds are still taking their title challenge one game at a time ahead of Manchester United’s visit to Anfield on Sunday.

“We don’t think about being unbeaten until the end of the season. If we do that, it would be great, but at the end of the day we just want to win the Premier League. That’s the most important thing,” Salah told Premier League Productions.

“Unbeaten or not, it’s not necessary — we want to win the Premier League.”

Liverpool could move a massive 30 points clear of United with victory on Sunday, but the Red Devils are the only side to take points off them this season after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in October.

Salah missed that match through injury and is keen to make up for lost time in the clash between English football’s two most successful sides.

“We need to win, we need to carry on in our way — the way we’ve been doing since the beginning of the season and since last year,” added the Egyptian.

“Of course we know it’s big for the fans, for the city and for us. But at the end of the day, we play the game to win.”