Story by Alethia Tiang/Red Sports. Pictures by Alan Chiang/Red Sports and REDintern Thomas Tan.
Iran’s Hadi Aghily scores the first goal of the game from a controversial penalty. (Photo 1 © Thomas Tan/Red Sports)
National Stadium, Wednesday, January 6, 2010 - Singapore fell 1-3 to Iran in front of a paltry home crowd of 7,000 in a Group E AFC Asian Cup qualifier.
Two mistakes in the span of less than five minutes by seasoned veterans Precious Emuejeraye and Mustafic Fahrudin undid all the positives for the Lions.
The win confirmed Iran’s place at the 2011 Asian Cup and put them top of Group E with 10 points. Singapore trail second-placed Thailand in third after the Thais and Jordan played out a 0-0 stalemate in Bangkok.
A miss kick by Iran in the first minute almost gave Singapore a chance to score but it was Iran who would score first in the 11th minute. Singapore defender Precious Emuejeraye (SG #6) was caught out by Iranian midfielder Mehrzad Madanchiardekani in the Singapore half. Precious got the ball back legitimately just outside the penalty box but the referee gave a penalty instead, resulting in an uproar amongst the Singaporean team and supporters.
Defender Aghily Anvar Seyed Hadi (IR, #5) took the penalty kick and rocketed the ball past Singapore keeper Hassan Sunny (SG #1) for an underserved 1-0 Iranian lead.
Singapore team captain and forward Noh Alam Shah (SG #8) almost had a shot at goal to level the score almost immediately but Iran came right back to punish Singapore immediately.
Midfielder Mustafic Fahrudin (SG #15) tried to play a ball out of his own midfield but his misplaced pass to Precious was intercepted by Iran's Madanchiardekani (IR #11) who bore down on goal and placed a shot beyond the exposed Hassan Sunny for their second goal in as many minutes.
Mustafic compounded his error by collecting a yellow card three minutes later after he expressed discontent with the referee's decision to give Iran a free kick. He was followed into the referee’s black book by Shaiful Esah who collected his yellow in the 16th minute for a foul.
In the meantime, a confrontation broke out within the Iran crowd at the grandstand in the 19th minute. Some Iranian fans were chanting pro-opposition slogans throughout the game, incurring the unhappiness of other Iranian supporters. Two Iranian fans were eventually evicted from the stadium. This incident though did not deter the Iranian fans from making the National Stadium sound like an away game for the Singapore Lions.
The mood of the Singaporean fans finally began to turn in the 31st minute when Noh Alam Shah headed the ball past the Iranian from a Shaiful Esah corner kick to make it 1-2. Ridhuan missed the incoming corner kick completely and the Iranian defence committed the cardinal football sin of allowing the ball to bounce in their penalty box. Alam Shah needed no second invitation.
The best chance for a Singapore equaliser fell to Khairul Amri (SG #12) in the second half. An inswinging corner from Shaiful Esah was headed on by Baihakki. The ball sailed across the whole six-yard box to Amri but his headed attempt beat everybody except the crossbar.
The game started to degenerate into a physical contest with Alam Shah earning his inevitable booking for his strong physical play and Iranian midfielder Timotian Andranik (IR #14) also getting a yellow.
With Singapore on the offense, Iran scored the best goal of the game on the counter. Iranian substitute Gholamreza Rezaei (#15) finished off a superb counterattacking move with a sublime chip over Hassan Sunny to seal the win for Iran.
Iranian coach, Seyed Afshin Ghotbi, was proud of his players.
"I’m very proud of my team and my players because we played in very difficult circumstances and managed to score some wonderful goals."
With regards to the final goal, coach Ghotbi commented that it was "one of the most wonderful goals I’ve ever seen in a long time. It was a golden touch."
For Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic, he could only lament how the team presented goals to the Iranians on a platter.
"There was too much hurry and many mis-passes. They are too much emotionally involved and that’s where their judgment is affected. And they couldn’t keep that coolness in passing and threw away the possession of the ball."
Singapore only needs to draw with Jordan in their final group game if Iran beats Thailand. Only the top two teams will qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup Finals.
We wish our Singapore boys all the best in their final game against Jordan in March.
Iran’s Milad Zanipour manages to weave past both Precious Emuejeraye and Mustafic Fahrudin. Mistakes by Precious and Mustafic gifted two goals to the Iranians. (Photo 2 © Thomas Tan/Red Sports)
Singapore’s Hariss Harun loses control of the ball to Iran’s Andranik Teymourian. (Photo 3 © Thomas Tan/Red Sports)
Khalatbari (#35) lies on the ground after a strong challenge from Shaiful Esah. (Photo 4 © Alan Chiang/Red Sports)
Khalatbari (#35) in another tussle with Shaiful Esah in the middle of the pitch … (Photo 5 © Alan Chiang/Red Sports)
… and this time, Shaiful Esah hits the ground. (Photo 6 © Alan Chiang/Red Sports)
Khairul Amri and Khosro Heydari rush for the ball. Amri had a golden opportunity to equalise in the second half while Singapore were trailing 1-2 but his header hit the crossbar. (Photo 7 © Thomas Tan/Red Sports)
Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic makes his frustrations known to referee Sun Baojie. (Photo 8 © Thomas Tan/Red Sports)
A dejected Hassan Sunny reflects on the 1-3 loss. (Photo 9 © Alan Chiang/Red Sports)