Mohammad Sharifi’s injury-time penalty helped Islamic Republic of Iran dramatically claim top spot in Group A of the AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 after a 3-0 victory over the hosts on Wednesday that also ousted the young Blue Tigers.
Iran controlled the opening 45 minutes at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and took a one-goal advantage into the interval after Mohammad Ghaderi struck midway through the half, before India’s Boris Thangjam was dismissed 11 minutes after the restart.
Captain Sharifi then scored from the spot with 10 minutes remaining and once more at the death as Iran progressed to the last eight on top of the group by virtue of goal difference ahead of United Arab Emirates, who ran out 3-1 victors over Saudi Arabia in Wednesday’s other Group A clash.
The hosts left Aman Chetri and Aniket Jadhav, goalscorers in the 3-3 draw with Saudi Arabia on Saturday, on the bench while Iran gave first starts of the tournament to goalkeeper Ali Gholam Zadeh, defender Ahmad Jalali and midfielder Reza Mousavian.
Iran shaded the opening stages and had the first chance of note on nine minutes when defender Taha Shariati was just inches away from connecting with Ghaderi’s dangerous inswinging cross from the left.
And Abbas Chamanian’s side then broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute as the lively Ghaderi latched on to Allahyar Sayyad’s inch-perfect through ball and powered the ball into the back of the net from 15 yards.
The young Blue Tigers had goalkeeper Dheeraj Moirangthem to thank for keeping Iran at arm’s length on 33 minutes as the custodian first pulled off a fine reactionary save to parry out Ghaderi’s goal-bound effort and then was up quickly to deny Amir Khodamoradi on the rebound.
With India needing a win to have any chance of reaching the next stage coach Nicolai Adam introduced Jadhav at the interval but their task was made all the harder when Thangjam was sent off for a second bookable offence on 56 minutes after he fouled Ghaderi on the right side.
Never far from the action, Ghaderi could have put the tie beyond India but shot straight at Moirangthem after running on to Khodamoradi’s perfectly weighted pass.
Chetri was then thrown on midway through the half as Adam went for broke, but it was Iran who looked the more likely to add to their tally.
With 15 minutes to play Mohammad Ghobeishavi found Sayyad down the right and his cross-cum-shot across goal was almost met by the outstretched Alireza Asadabadi at the back post.
Iran then did put the game beyond their opponents in the 80th minute when Ghaderi was upended in the India penalty area and Sharifi confidently dispatched the ensuing spot kick.
Sharifi then added a second penalty in injury time after Sayyad was brought down as Iran secured top spot in Group A in a thrilling finale.
Iran coach Abbas Chamanian: “For us it was very, very important to win the group and give us a better chance of reaching the semi-final and final. Today was our best performance so far because we were much more organised.
We analysed India before the game and they are a good team with a good head coach and look good for the future. But today our players on the left and right controlled the game. We got in good positions and were able to make goalscoring chances. We knew what was happening in the other game so we knew we had to score the final goal.”
India coach Nicolai Adam: “First, I have to say a big thank you to the spectators. There were more than five thousand and even in Europe that doesn’t happen. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it. The scoreline sounds very clear but in my opinion the result was not that clear.
I kept Chetri and Jadhav on the bench because my plan was the longer it was 0-0 the better, and I would have more options in the second half. Overall the tournament was a great experience for the boys but there is a huge task ahead of the [U-17] World Cup next year. The atmosphere in the changing room is not great but I told them I don’t want any tears.”
This was an official Press Release provided by the Asian Football Confederation
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