Vol. 5 Num 70 Thu. August 05, 2004  

AFC Asian Cup, China 2004
Iran aghast at refereeing

Disappointed Iran coach Branko Ivanovic slammed the refereeing in his side's loss to China in the Asian Cup semi-finals, saying the sending off of defender Sattar Zare was a mistake that led to Iran's defeat.

China went through to Saturday's final against Japan after a tense 4-3 penalty shoot-out win with goalkeeper Liu Yunfei blocking a spot kick by Yahya Golmohammadi after the game ended 1-1 following extra time.

"I normally don't talk about referees, but ... the referee really made some very big mistakes," the Croatian coach said.

"I think that sending off Zare was wrong. I think that was a yellow card but 1,000 percent it wasn't a red card.

"It was the turning point in the match."

Zare was dismissed in the 48th minute after shoving China's German-based midfielder Shao Jiayi in the chest.

Shao fell to the ground, theatrically clutching his throat which appeared to influence Lebanese referee Talaat Najm.

Zare left the field in tears.

Ivankovic said the dismissal gave China a one man advantage for the rest of the match and made it difficult for him to substitute and adjust his side's tactics.

While bemoaning his players' treatment, he said China's Zhang Yaokun should have been sent off in the 83rd minute when Iran playmaker Ali Karimi on a lone break away was hacked down from behind just outside the penalty area.

"The foul by China's number four (Zhang) on Ali Karimi, this was not only a red card, but it should have been a red card with a four-game suspension. This was not right at all, yet he only got a yellow card," he said.

Even Chinese coach Arie Haan admitted that Zare's red card was a turning point, but said there was little to be done now that the match was over.

"There is always a little bit of excitement over the decision of referees, but these things should not be discussed, especially after the games," Haan said.

The irate Ivankovic further indicated that the one-sided calls were largely a result of China's home advantage.

"I think if you changed the place, the results would be different," he said when asked how the home advantage had helped China.

Iran now face tiny Bahrain in Friday's third place play-off.

"In this tournament, it will be better to get third than fourth, but this won't be easy because the players are so disappointed, they got so close to the final," Ivankovic said.

The tournament has been dogged by poor standards of refereeing, with the issue coming to a head when the Bahraini Abdul Rahman was sent home after an erratic display of officiating in a Group D game.

IT'S YOUR FAULT! Iran's Sattar Zare (R) challenges the linesman as he breaks down after receiving a red card during the Asian Cup semifinal against China in Beijing on August 3. PHOTO: AFP