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Iran stun Japan 2-1 to reach Asian Cup semi-finals


Alireza Jahanbakhsh scored a 96th-minute penalty to give Iran a dramatic 2-1 win over Japan on Saturday and set up an Asian Cup semi-final against holders Qatar or Uzbekistan.

It capped a stunning comeback from Iran, who were behind at the break but roared back to dump out the pre-tournament favourites and keep alive their dream of a first Asian title since 1976.

Hidemasa Morita gave Japan, who were looking to lift the trophy for a record-extending fifth time, the lead midway through the first half in front of 36,000 at Education City Stadium in Doha

Mohammad Mohebi drew Iran — themselves champions three times — level 10 minutes after half time and they dominated the remainder of the game.

But just when it looked like extra time, Kou Itakura brought Hossein Kanaanizadegan down in the box and skipper Jahanbakhsh held his nerve to spark delirium on the pitch and in the stands.

Coach Amir Ghalenoei said his players were “fantastic” in the second half.

“They gave everything for the Iranian people,” he said.

“This can be a turning point for Iranian football.”

Ghalenoei, whose side squeezed through on penalties over Syria in the last 16, took a potshot at critics of him and his side back home.

“I am not saying criticism is not good, but some people in the last 11 months tried to ruin the national team,” he said.

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