MELBOURNE (AFP) – Iran coach Carlos Queiroz (AFP photo below) let rip at Bahrain for their “dangerous” tackling after his side won a tempestuous Asian Cup clash 2-0 on Sunday.
The Portuguese, described as a “rottweiler” by former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, accused Australian referee Ben Williams of failing to control the Group C match in Melbourne.
“I was not happy because after nine, 10, 12 fouls, stopping the game systematically. The referee must take action,” Queiroz told AFP.
“There were some aerial duels where especially their number 12 (Faouzi Aaish) elbowed my players, and as you know the elbow is very dangerous.”
Ehsan Hajsafi’s sumptuous volley in first-half stoppage time lit the touchpaper for Iran, who are seeking to end a 39-year wait for a fourth Asian Cup title, before Masoud Shojaei added a second in the 71st minute to end brave Bahrain’s resistance.
But Queiroz, who had two spells as Ferguson’s assistant at Old Trafford, was furious at what he saw as a lack of consistency from referee Williams.
“For a referee so quick to show a yellow card when one of my players didn’t hear the whistle, I was completely surprised that when he sees Bahrain’s negative game — after 10 fouls in a row — he didn’t give them a single yellow,” fumed the former Portugal and Real Madrid boss.
Asia’s top-ranked side, Iran almost opened the scoring after 20 minutes when the dangerous Ashkan Dejagah forced a smart stop from Sayed Abbas in the Bahrain goal.
But Bahrain had already served notice that they were not about to simply roll over as their bulldozing Nigerian-born striker Jaycee Okwunwanne blazed wide during the frenetic early skirmishes.
Sayed Shubbar then squandered a golden opportunity by heading over as Bahrain threatened to capitalise on a sluggish start from Iran.
However, Hajsafi produced a moment of magic with almost the last kick of the first half, expertly trapping a looping clearance with his left foot before instantaneously smashing it past Abbas with the outside of his right boot from just outside the box.
“It was a brilliant, fantastic goal,” gushed Queiroz. “A goal to grace any stadium in the world. Bahrain made it difficult for us but we deserved to win and should have scored more goals.”
Reza Ghoochannejhad appeared to be incorrectly flagged for offside for a second time when through on goal shortly after the interval. At the other end, Okwunwanne almost emulated Hajsafi with a ferocious drive that Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi did brilliantly to keep out.
Tempers flared when Haghighi barged into Aaish, Bahrain’s waspish playermaker with a menacing-looking mohican who appeared to block off the keeper as he attempted a quick throw.
But moments later Shojaei popped up to steer a right-foot shot just inside the post from another corner to trigger wild celebrations from a crowd of 17,000 — most noisily supporting Team Melli.
“You saw what happened with the goalkeeper,” said Queiroz, still simmering. “He tried for a quick transition and the number 12 stopped him. The laws of the game are clear — an elbow is a yellow card, no doubt about that. For the offsides, we all make mistakes.”
Iran’s Asian Cup drought dates back to 1976, when they won the third of three successive titles.
Earlier, the United Arab Emirates laid down a marker by thrashing Qatar 4-1 to go top of the group on goal difference.