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Defending champion Iran edges Iraq 5-3 at AFC Futsal Championship

The Iran men’s national futsal team, domestically known as Team Melli Futsal, has topped the standings at the group stage of the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Futsal Championship, defeating the Iraqi side.

The Persians, who had netted double figures in both previous ties against Myanmar and China, defeated their rivals 5-3 at the University of Taipei Gymnasium in Taipei on Tuesday to win Group C.

Iraq shocked Iraq by taking the lead with only seven minutes into the game as Waleed Khalid fired across Iran’s goalkeeper Alireza Samimi into the far corner.

Iraq’s joy, however, lasted less than a minute. Iranian striker Hossein Tayebi cleverly challenged flying Iraqi custodian Zaher Mahdi, and his header looped into the unguarded net.

The Iranian team completed the turnaround with just over eight minutes remaining as Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh Navlighi, who is currently a member of Giti Pasand in the Iranian Futsal Super League, scored a goal.

The Iraqi futsal players then sought to restore parity before the break, though, Samimi agilely kept out the efforts.

It was an intriguing contest after the restart. It took over five minutes before Moslem Oladghobad placed the ball at the back of the net to double Iran’s lead.

And with a little over 10 minutes remaining, Iraqi player Firas Mohammed narrowed the deficit to 3-2 by converting Khalid’s cross.

The Iranians immediately responded and Farhad Tavakoli’s fine strike re-established the two-goal advantage.

Mohammed added his second and Iraq’s third of the match in the 34thminute.

But it was Tayebi, who netted the final goal four minutes later and gave Iran the 5-3 victory.

“It was expected that we would have a tough game. We know Iraq very well, as we play each other two to three times a year. The tough teams always give tough games. It was clear Iraq wanted to be number one in the group so they played a strong game,” Iran’s Head Coach Mohammad Nazemasharieh said after the match.

He added, “Time by time and step by step, the games get harder and harder as the tournament progresses. The knockout stage is no joke; if you make mistakes you’ll be eliminated. We may look to be more conservative in some matches going forward.”

“We talked before the match that Islamic Republic of Iran would be a difficult team. In futsal sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We looked at this game as preparation for the next round. Iran is the champion of Asia and third in the world. Iran is very strong technically and very strong physically,” Iraq’s Head Coach Haitham Abbas commented.

“We focused on the defense in this game, but we made some mistakes which saw us concede five goals. We can’t make these mistakes in the knockout stages,” he said.

The Iran men’s national futsal team is scheduled to play against Thailand in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

The 2018 AFC Futsal Championship, which is the 15th edition of the games, opened on February 6 and will close on February 18 in Chinese Taipei.

Team Melli Futsal holds a record of 11 championship titles, and the team has enjoyed much success in recent years.

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