BRISBANE (Reuters) - If the Iran coach Carlos Queiroz had bit his lip any harder, it might have bled. As much as he wanted to criticise the Australian referee who sent off one of his key players in Friday’s Asian Cup quarter-final against Iraq, he couldn’t.
Iraq won the match 7-6 on penalties after the teams finished extra time all square at 3-3. But the result might have been different had Iranian defender Mehrdad Pooladi stayed on the pitch.
He was sent off after just 43 minutes when he was booked for a second time. Iran were leading 1-0 when he was shown a second yellow card but spent the rest of the match defending.
The jury was split on whether the sending off was harsh but everyone agreed it was odd.
Pooladi was first booked for a rash tackle on Ahmed Yasin then for either diving or time wasting when he fell to the ground after he was lightly pushed in the chest by Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hassan.
The referee Ben Williams initially appeared to forget that he had already shown Pooladi a yellow card and told him to play on.
It was only after the Iraqi players protested that he reached into his pocket and pulled out the red.
“I don’t have many comments about the referee because if I make comments today I finish my career and I don’t think after 34 years of my career I deserve to finish it here,” Queiroz told reporters.
“If I say what I feel and if I tell the truth that everybody saw in the game, they finish my career.
“Can he sleep tonight? It’s just a question.”
The Iraq coach Radhi Shenaishil said Iran contributed to their own misfortune. He said he didn’t see the incident that led to the send-off but said they shouldn’t have been trying to fool the official.
“I know the referee very well, he’s the type of referee who loves giving cards,” Shenaishil said.
“I think their concentration after gaining the red card was to put pressure on the fourth official to give a red card or another yellow card to any of the Iraqi players.
“They concentrated on these things, which is wrong, they should have concentrated on the match.”
Iranian defender Vouria Ghafouri was adamant the sending off cost his team the chance to win.
“We’re very sad because we went down to 10 men and we didn’t deserve to go out of the tournament,” he said.
“If our player didn’t get sent off then we would have gone through to the next round.”
Despite the bitter aftertaste, Queiroz said he could not have been prouder of the way his players fought to the end.
Twice in extra time they came from a goal down to force the penalty shoot-out.
“We go home now and it hurts a lot because the players worked hard and committed themselves, they deserve something more and they deserve respect from the fans,” he said.
“They have all my love and all my support because of the way they fought for the whole 120 minutes and penalties, and I feel very, very proud to be coach of this team and these players.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly