Iran knocked out four-times champions Japan with a 2-1 victory in their Asian Cup quarter-final clash after skipper Alireza Jahanbakhsh converted a penalty in stoppage time at Education City Stadium on Saturday.
Iran had not beaten Japan in 19 years while their victory also extended Amir Ghalenoei’s unbeaten streak to 16 matches since he took charge in March. After a cagey start to a physical contest, Japan took the lead through Hidemasa Morita who made a run past four defenders before beating Alireza Beiranvand in goal to silence the Iran fans in the stadium.
But Iran equalised 10 minutes into the second half with a sublime passing move where Sardar Azmoun played the ball through to Mohammad Mohebi, who ran around his marker before slipping his shot past Suzuki into the bottom corner. Japan had dominated possession in the first half but it was Iran who controlled proceedings after the equaliser as they initiated wave after wave of attacks and the pressure finally paid off in second-half added time.
Japan’s Ko Itakura made a mess of a clearance in the 94th minute and as he tried to recover, he tripped Hossein Kanani in the box and the referee immediately pointed to the spot, with Jahanbakhsh sending a missile into the top corner.
Iran will find out their semi-final opponents later on Saturday when defending champions Qatar take on Uzbekistan. Jordan play South Korea in the other semi-final.
Graham Arnold said his “devastated” Australia team were punished for failing to take their chances in the 2-1 Asian Cup defeat in extra time to South Korea on Friday.
The Socceroos looked headed for the semi-finals after Craig Goodwin gave them the lead at the end of the first half and South Korea struggled to find a response.
But Hwang Hee-chan equalised from the penalty spot in the 96th minute before Tottenham star Son Heung-min curled home a free-kick for the winner in the first period of extra time.
Australia were left kicking themselves — they should have doubled their lead 10 minutes after the restart when Mitchell Duke blazed over.
Duke spurned another opportunity when he headed wide in the 84th minute, and the Koreans made them pay.
Australia finished the match with 10 men after Aiden O’Neill was red-carded for lunging at Hwang.
“We were up 1-0, we had chances for 2-0, 3-0, and if you don’t take your chances you get punished,” said Socceroos coach Arnold.
“It’s up to the individual to take the chances.”
“You learn from these type of things and you move forward.”