Iraq has secured a semi final spot in the most dramatic fashion, overcoming Iran 7-6 on penalties after a drama packed extra time.
After a rather tepid 90 minutes, the match exploded in extra time with four goals, Iran twice coming from behind to equalise and send the match to penalties, the first shootout of this Asian Cup.
Midfielder Vahid Amiri was the unlucky Iranian who missed his penalty with the shootout locked at 6-6, with Salam Shakir making no mistake to give Iraq an historic win
A goal to Iranian young-gun Sardar Azmoun gave the Iranians the lead midway through the first half. Former Fulham winger Ashkan Dejagah found space on the right and whipped in an inch-perfect cross for Azmoun who expertly found a pocket of space between the central defender, giving Iraqi keeper Jalal Hassan no chance.
Moments later Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud came close to equalising for the 2007 champions, however Alireza Haghighi did well to block his shot.
The match came to life just before half time when Mehrdad Pooladi was involved in an incident with Iraqi keeper Jalal. Referee Ben Williams saw enough in it to show a yellow card to the Iranian defender, momentarily forgetting he had booked him previously, before turning around and giving the 27-year-old his marching order, infuriating the Iranian bench.
Swindon Town midfielder Yaser Kasim bought the best out of Haghighi early in the second half, with a wicked free kick that looked to be dipping under the crossbar, but Haghighi’s outstretched hand forced it out for a corner.
He could do nothing five minutes later when Alaa Abdalzahra’s cross flashed across goal, evading the outstretched boot of Mahmoud, finding Swedish-based Ahmed Yasin at the back post who calmly slotted home the equaliser.
Both sides pushed hard for the winner, but neither could find the space or touch in the final third to find the breakthrough, forcing the match to extra time.
Iraq broke the deadlock just minutes into extra time when left-back Dhurgham Ismail charged into the box, his cross taking a deflection and looping into the path of Mahmoud who adjusted his body to head past Haghighi.
Their lead didn’t last long, however, with young defender Morteza Pouraliganji smashing home a powerful header from a corner just over five minutes later to draw Iran level.
There was more drama when Pouraliganji went from hero to zero, taking down Kasim in the box, leaving Ben Williams with no option but to point to the spot. 20-year-old Ismail was tasked with taking the penalty and did so with aplomb, sending Haghighi to wrong way to once again give Iraq the lead.
The drama didn’t end there, Iran equalising again just two minutes from full time when Javad Nekounam’s bullet header deflected off Reza Ghoochannejhad into the post, before another shot was cleared off the line, Ghoochannejhad eventually heading the ball home to send the Iranian fans into delirium.