(IranSportsPress.com | AFC)- Substitute Alireza Asadabadi’s winner capped a stunning come-from-behind victory for Islamic Republic of Iran as they defeated Saudi Arabia 3-2 in the AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 opener in Group A on Thursday.
Mansor Al Beshe had begun the day’s action in stunning fashion with a superb strike inside five minutes before Dhari Al Anazi doubled the advantage just before the break.
Iran roared back after half-time though and Allahyar Sayyad made it 2-1 two minutes into the second period before first Mohammad Sharifi and then Asadabadi completed the comeback in a dramatic two-minute spell at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Midfielder Al Beshe netted the tournament’s first goal in spectacular style four minutes in as he unleashed a thunderous strike from fully 25-yards out that rocketed into the net past the despairing dive of Meraj Esmaeili in the Iran goal.
The Iranians looked to restore parity in swift succession and captain Aref Alipour did go close with a free-kick from distance on 19 minutes.
And just after the half-hour, Mohammad Ghaderi went even closer as the midfielder wriggled into the penalty area before striking a firm shot that was well saved by Hashem Al Asmari.
Abbas Chamanian’s team continued to press for an equaliser but were kept out by a resolute Saudi side who then went on to extend their lead three minutes before half-time when Mali crossed in from the left for the onrushing Al Anazi to steer home.
Within the seconds of the restart Iran could have reduced the deficit but Sayyad volleyed Saeid Ahani’s cross over the bar.
The substitute was not to be denied a second time in quick succession though as on the 47th minute Sayyad broke through on goal and struck the ball emphatically past Al Asmari.
The action flashed from end-to-end as Al Anazi could have restored the two goal cushion but somehow blazed over from six-yards out after Esmaeili could only parry Mali’s shot.
But in the space of just two minutes the game and scoreline had turned on its head.
On 68 minutes, Sharifi turned home from a goalmouth scramble after a corner and just moments later, with Saudi Arabia still reeling from the leveller, Asadabadi found himself one-on-one with Al Asmari and finished coolly to spark frenzied celebrations on the Iran bench.
Saudi Arabia could have snatched a point at the death as Mali flicked the ball on for Naif Al Mas but the captain could only blaze over as Iran secured the victory.
Iran coach Abbas Chamanian:
“I made the substitution before half-time because I wanted the team to be mentally prepared for the second half. We were better than Saudi Arabia in the first half but they scored two goals. In the second half we had good opportunities to score after we changed our tactics to 4-4-2. We were able to score three goals and two of our substitutes scored a goal each.”
Saudi Arabia coach Mohammed Al Abdali:
“In the first half we dominated the game and could have scored more goals. The Iranians scored in the first two minutes of the second half and that gave them confidence. We warned our players at half-time that 2-0 is a risky scoreline, not a comfortable position. We could have scored not just at the end of the game, but halfway through the second half. If you don’t score then you get punished, but hopefully we will learn from this.”