China’s goalkeeper Yang Ning , playing his first full international match at the national stadium in Singapore, showed all of his inexperience to concede two savable goals to Iran in a match filled with tactical boredom.
Young Ning , 22 , made first-choice goalkeeper this season after understudying Li Fu Sheng for more than five years , was twice caught on the wrong foot as he concentrated on his teams tactics instead of reading what the Iranians had as a counter-measure. For his lack of perception, he certainly paid dearly. The first Iranian goal , for instance , could have been saved if Ning have given as much attention to the formation of a great wall as the invaders trying to find a hole in it.
While he was still trying to correct the position of the 8 man against a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, The Iranian kicker Nasser Mohammadkhani , saw that the English Referee George Courtney was satisfied with the 10 meters distance that China Kept. The alert Nasser quickly took the shot , a slightly curled one but not exactly a good banana attempt , to the near post. A confused Ning who was already taking a step to cover the far post, was transfixed by the sudden change as the ball floated in , within a diving reach.
For a keeper who has been described as more agile than heavy, bulky predecessor , Ning Hardly made use on any the one quality that won him a regular place in the Pre-Olympics rounds last year. He managed to tip over a tremendous shot by Midfielder Sharoukh Bayani in the first half. But when it came to having vision , he fell short in the 69th minute when stopper Zia Arabshahi scored the important 2nd goal.
AS all of China were pushing up the offside line after an Iranian Free-kick from the right, Ning showed his approval shouting further instructions to his defenders. Arabshahi noticed the nervousness and suddenly shot a rather tame floater to the same top-left corner that 12 minutes earlier accepted the first goal.
Almost at once ,China’s spirit collapsed. They began to run aimlessly pass badly and tackle tentatively , until Ning restored a bit of confidence with a diving save a minute from time.
But it was already too late for any form on inspiration work.
When the irrepressible Gu Guang Ming provided it for half an hour from start , alas the other Chinese attackers ran out of ideas.
When Gu’s ideas were well read , however , the Chinese shooting was horrific. In the 17th Minute , for example , Gu wriggled his way up to the byline, looked up to see that the star of the China team Zhao Da Yu , was unmarked near the penalty spot, and then promptly sent over a measured cross. But Da Yu , for all of his reputation , decided to volley when he had all the time to trap the ball. So , he missed it completely, falling flat on his face as China’s best chance of the night bounced wastefully away.
Perhaps there might not have been so much wastage in the game, too if both teams had better support in attack. Inhibited midfielders , apparently told not to take risks, left their strikers to work extra hard as thy held themselves back for counters.
The result was tactical impasse which barely raised a roar from the pro-Chinese crowd< if they left for home disappointed. Ning certainly went to bed heart broken.
Man of the match : Shahroukh Bayani (Iran)
With two wins under their belt, Iran had a good reason to be cheerful after they slayed the flat footed dragon that was China last night.
In the dressing room they gave a full account of their commendable victory, which virtually assures them of a place in the last four.
Said coach Nasser Ebrahimi “We had no special plan to contain the Chinese. It was a case of attacking and defending together, but with patience. The defenders did their job extremely well but they had help from the forwards”
Added Masood Moeini , the assistant coach “ My players demonstrated the art of total football very well. Gu Guang Ming is very fast , so we assigned left full back Asghar Hajiloo to check him. For a fast player, man-to-man marking does not work, and every time Hajiloo got beaten, Panjali was there to cover”
“We allowed China to attack in the first half. All we did was to slow down the game and contain them. We were not bothered about attacking. As we expected, they ran out of steam, allowing us to take the upper hand”
“Right from start, we were not willing to settle for 0-0 score. We wanted to win and we did”
Ebrahimi said that Iran were aware that the crowd would be behind China. But we did not let that bother us. We love the fans and we respect their wishes”
Chinese coach Zeng Xhu Lin , understandably was in no mood to say much , blaming the heat for the defeat but adding that China would make it to the semis.