Tehran: AFC U-16 Championship hosts Iran outlined their championship credentials with an impressive 5-1 quarter-final win over Australia on Sunday that booked their place in the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Iran totally dominated proceedings and after being frustrated on numerous occasions by Australia keeper Andre Jannese the hosts took the lead through Saeid Ezatolahi’s 30th minute penalty before a fortuitous Reza Karmollachaab effort four minutes later gave the hosts a two-goal cushion to take into the interval.
Mohammadreza Bazaj extended Iran’s advantage after being set up by Ali Rigi in the 63rd minute and then Rigi went from provider to scorer with a superb individual effort with ten minutes at the PAS Stadium left to play.
Substitute Bai Antniou scored an 88th minute consolation that appeared to give the scoreline a more flattering perspective only for Karmollachaab to score his second and Iran’s fifth in stoppage-time.
Iran’s victory sets up a semi-final showdown with Uzbekistan, who ended the 100% record of Korea Republic with a 5-3 penalty shootout victory after regulation time ended 1-1.
Australia coach Alistair Edwards, who made eight changes to the starting 11 which began the Joeys’ last group stage match that ended in a penalty shootout defeat to Iraq, had predicted Sunday’s quarter-final clash would be a contrast in styles, with his possession-based strategy going up against the direct approach of the tournament hosts.
But it was a moment of individuality that almost gave Iran the lead with a blistering long-range free-kick from Seyed Majid Hosseini flying just over Andre Jannese’s crossbar in the third minute before Amirmohammad Mazloum should have made more of Reza Karmollachaab’s pinpoint pass four minutes later.
At the ten minute mark Jannese came to the Joeys’ rescue with a timely double save from Karmollachaab, first with his left leg and then with the right as the Iran forward tried hook in the rebound, before the Australian Institute of Sport stopper did well to keep out Mohammadreza Bazaj’s diving header three minutes later.
Iran’s direct approach was dictating the game with the Aussies seeing little in the way of possession in the opening period of the first-half with the action centred mainly in and around Jannese’s area.
The young keeper was having an inspired game, as showed in the 22nd minute with a superb one-handed save from Mazloum’s powerful low shot but Jannese was finally beaten on the half-hour mark when Saeid Ezatolahi sent him the wrong way from the penalty spot after Aaron Calver had fouled Mazloum in the area.
Mazloum played a key role when Iran doubled their lead four minutes later with the skilful forward’s trickery taking him to the byline before his cross was knocked home by Karmollachaab from close range.
The pattern of Iran dominance continued in the second-half and in the 63rd minute Mohammadreza Bazaj made it 3-0 with his last touch of the ball before being replaced by Sadegh Moharrami a minute later.
Ali Rigi, who set up Iran’s third, almost scored number four in the 65th minute but his shot deflected off an Aussie defender and then the crossbar before the danger was cleared.
Soon after Aussie coach Edwards made a double substitution as Alex Gersbach and Taylor Tombides made way for Jordan Pudler and Bai Antniou.
After a brief period of Australian ascendency the Iranians retook control of the game and the Joey’s needed skipper James Baldacchino to clear off the line to stop the going further behind in the 76th minute.
But they couldn’t stem the Iranian tide for long as Rigi waltzed through the tiring Aussie defence and finished with aplomb three minutes later and although the Joey’s grabbed an 88th minute consolation through substitute Antniou scoring with two minutes left to play it was Iran that would have the final say with Karmollachaab grabbing his second and the hosts’ fifth in the last significant action of a surprisingly one-sided quarter-final.