BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) – Substitute Reza Ghoochannejhad scored in the first minute of stoppage time Monday to give Iran a thrilling 1-0 win over the United Arab Emirates and top spot in Group C of the Asian Cup.
Ghoochannejhad, nicknamed “Gucci”, headed the ball past keeper Alireza Haghighi after a scramble in the box to send the majority-Iranian crowd of over 11,000 into raptures.
The win means Iran will now play the runners-up in Group D in the quarter-finals, probably Iraq or Jordan, and avoid a likely clash with defending champions Japan.
The entertaining match looked headed for the first draw of the tournament until the Charlton Athletic forward popped up with the winner, beating the offside trap.
The match produced some of the most exciting football of the tournament as the two teams went for all-out attack.
In a fast-paced opening to the game both teams had good chances as the play went from end to end.
UAE’s Khamis Esmaeel unleashed a blistering shot from 25 yards out that just sailed wide, before teammate Omar Abdulrahman caused Iranian flutters when he ghosted into the box on the 10-minute mark, only for the defenders to put the ball behind for a corner.
However, the Iranians came storming back and had two great chances of their own, first Sardar Azmoun’s shot was deflected for a corner and then Alireza Jahanbakhsh headed straight to keeper Majed Naser.
UAE went close again three minutes before the break when Ali Mabkhout fired a dangerous ball across the face of goal but a sliding Habib Al Fardan arrived just too late to meet it.
The second half was just as thrilling as both teams threw everything they had at each other without creating any clear scoring chances.