Asian Cup: Palestine beaten by Iran in emotional Group C opener


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Iran, Japan and the United Arab Emirates made winning starts to their Asian Cup campaigns on Sunday.

Palestine suffered a 4-1 defeat to Iran in their opening game at the Asian Cup on Sunday, with a moment of silence observed before the match to commemorate the victims of the Israel-Hamas war.

As the war reached the 100-day mark, both teams lined up in the centre of the Education City Stadium pitch as an announcement asked for silence “in memory of the lives tragically lost as a result of the ongoing conflict in Palestine”.

A hush fell across the stadium in the city of Al-Rayyan before shouts of “free Palestine” were heard from members of the crowd.

Once the game began, three-time champions Iran never looked back after Karim Ansarifard struck within two minutes, with Shoja Khalilzadeh adding a second goal 10 minutes later.

Mehdi Ghayedi made it 3-0 with 38 minutes on the clock, but the loudest cheers came when Palestine’s Tamer Seyam pulled a goal back in first-half stoppage time.

Sardar Azmoun scored a fourth for Iran 10 minutes after the break as Amir Ghalenoei’s team made a winning start to their Group C campaign.

Elsewhere, Takumi Minamino scored twice as Japan came from behind to beat Vietnam 4-2 in Group D.

The tournament favourites trailed 2-1 in the first half despite Monaco attacker Minamino opening the scoring after 11 minutes.

Nguyen Dinh Bac levelled things up at Al Thumama Stadium five minutes later and Vietnam, ranked 94th in the world by FIFA, went ahead through Pham Tuan Hai’s goal in the 33rd minute.

Record four-time Asian Cup winners Japan, who have been heavily tipped to reclaim the trophy they last won in 2011, recovered from that setback as former Liverpool forward Minamino equalised in the 45th minute.

Keito Nakamura then made it 3-2 in first-half stoppage time and substitute Ayase Ueda made the points safe five minutes from full-time.

Finally, Hong Kong’s Philip Chan Siu Kwan scored the 1,000th goal in the history of the Asian Cup, but his team still fell to a 3-1 defeat against the United Arab Emirates.

Chan briefly levelled the Group C match four minutes into the second half after Sultan Adil had given UAE the lead from the penalty spot 11 minutes before the break. However, it took just three further minutes for UAE to regain their advantage through Zayed Sultan.

Substitute Yahya Al Ghassani then struck deep into stoppage time to clinch victory against the lowest ranked team at the tournament, with Hong Kong sitting 150th in the FIFA World Rankings.


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