The 2015 Asia Cup provided its most dramatic day yet after both Iran and defending champions Japan were bundled out at the quarterfinals level.
After playing to a stunning 3-3 draw after extra time, Iraq ensured their progress to the semifinals with a 7-6 win over their Middle Eastern rivals on penalties. The game was tied 1-1 at full time with Iran taking the lead from a Sardar Azmoun first half strike before they were reduced to 10-men following a Mehrdad Pooladi red card two minutes before the interval.
However, Ahmed Yasin drew Iraq level in the 56th minute but in spite of their one-man advantage, they were unable to find the winner with the game heading to extra time.
Younis Mahmoud put Iraq ahead for the first time in the match just two minutes into extra time but Iran restored parity with a Morteza Pouraliganji header in the 103rd minute. There however was still time for more drama with Pouraliganji giving away a penalty after hauling down Yaser Kasim. Dhurgham Ismail stepped up and converted to give Iraq a 3-2 lead with just four minutes before full time.
That goal would have sealed their fate but the Iranians wouldn’t bow out without a fight with substitute Reza Choochannejhad unbelievably making it 3-3 just two minutes later.
The tense shoot out saw all but Iran’s Vahid Amiry failing to convert his spot kick as Iraq made it to the semis, defender Salam Shakir slamming home the winning penalty.
Defending Champions Japan crashed out after going down 5-4 to United Arab Emirates in post-match penalties. Ali Ahmed Mabkhout gave the Gulf nation the lead but substitute Gaku Shibasaki drew the Blue Samurai level with just nine minutes before full time. With both teams unable to find the winner at extra time, the match went to penalties where UAE emerged top at sudden death.
UAE will play hosts Australia in the semis while Iraq will clash with South Korea to decide which two teams will contest to be the continental champions in the final set for Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on January 31.
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