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Football: Asian Cup, Group C – Iran, UAE down Bahrain, Qatar

Masoud Shojaei scores Iran’s second against Bahrain. Photo: AFCAsianCup.com.

Masoud Shojaei (#7) scores Iran’s second against Bahrain. Photo: AFCAsianCup.com.

January 11, 2015: Iran coach Carlos Queiroz believes his team’s 2-0 win over Bahrain in their AFC Asian Cup opener in Melbourne on Sunday highlights a bright future for Team Melli as they seek to win the competition for the first time since 1976. Iran lie second in Group C behind UAE, who earlier beat Qatar 4-1 in Canberra.

 

With defenders Pejman Montazeri and Hashem Beikzadeh ruled out of the tournament due to injury, Queiroz chose to field untested duo Morteza Pouraliganji and Vouria Ghafouri in defence at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.

 

Despite the pair having only a handful of friendly caps between them, they performed admirably alongside Mehrdad Pooladi and Seyed Jalal Hosseini as goals in either half from Ehsan Hajsafi and Masoud Shojaei secured victory for the three-time continental champions.

 

“We came here with some limitations, but when you play the Asian Cup and play the opening match against Bahrain and you put on the pitch two kids who have never played an official match – like centre-back Morteza, who is not even a centre-back – and you play like that, you must be happy,” said Queiroz, the former Portugal coach.

 

“We lost a couple of players, so if they are not here, we need to make decisions with the players we trust and believe they are ready to serve the national team.

 

“When I arrived in Iran, we had 12-14 players who were ready to play in the national team – one player with 90 caps and the second player with zero caps. Things have changed after four years and the work that we have done has started to prepare the new options and new players that will be the future of the Iranian national team.”

 

Ehsan Hajsafi (#3) netted a superb opener for Iran as they opened Group C with a 2-0 win over Bahrain.

Ehsan Hajsafi (#3) netted a superb opener for Iran as they opened Group C with a 2-0 win over Bahrain.

Iran had made a slow start to the opening Group C contest, but after Hajsafi netted a sensational opener in first-half stoppage time, Shojaei sealed the win with 19 minutes remaining.

 

“The game was difficult as we expected in the first game. Bahrain started better than us in the first 10 minutes until we were able to settle down our game,” said Queiroz, who withdrew Shojaei, Reza Ghoochannejhad and Ashkan Dejagah inside the final 15 minutes ahead of Thursday’s meeting with Qatar in Sydney.

 

“After 10 minutes we started to put the ball on the grass and we started to create opportunities. We should have scored earlier with the Dejagah one-on-one with the goalkeeper. But after the first 10 minutes, I think we controlled the game and created the best opportunities in the game to score and I think we deserved to win.

 

“It was a good win, but it was always difficult as the team from Bahrain always played with a positive mind, and even when they were losing 2-0, they always tried to attack and they always tried to surprise us moving forward.”

 

UAE (white) came from behind to beat Qatar 4-1 and lead Group C.

UAE (white) came from behind to beat Qatar 4-1 and lead Group C.

Forwards Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout each scored twice in the UAE’s 4-1 win over Qatar at Canberra Stadium on Sunday. The Gulf Cup champions took the lead courtesy of Khalfan Ibrahim’s 22nd-minute chipped effort, but Khalil, a former AFC Youth Player of the Year, levelled on 36 minutes.

 

Set-pieces in the second half were to prove Qatar’s undoing as Khalil on 51 minutes and then Mabkhout on 56 minutes profited from dead-ball situations, before Mabkhout got his second in the dying minutes of the game.

 

Source: Andrew Mullen / AFC Asian Cup (www.afcasiancup.com); Editing by SportAsia

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