|Iran’s forward Sardar Azmoun celebrates his goal during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup quarter-final football match. — AFP Photo|Viet Nam News
ABU DHABI — Iran fired an Asian Cup warning by dispatching China 3-0 in ruthless fashion to reach the semi-finals on Thursday while a landmark VAR-assisted penalty sent Japan through.
Ritsu Doan scored from the spot in Japan’s 1-0 win over Việt Nam as the video assistant referee system marked its tournament debut with a bang, the Blue Samurai marching on to face top-ranked Iran in the last four.
Iran continued on their quest to end a barren run at the Asian Cup dating back 43 years with Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun and Karim Ansarifard all on target in Abu Dhabi.
Carlos Queiroz’s side drew first blood after 18 minutes of an embarrassingly one-sided quarter-final when Azmoun squared for Taremi to sweep home after some calamitous Chinese defending.
Iran’s second was almost a carbon copy — much to the chagrin of China coach Marcello Lippi, who stood staring in horror.
This time Liu Yiming misjudged a hopeful punt down-field, allowing Azmoun to nip in and round goalkeeper Yan Junling to score his fourth of the tournament.
China’s best chance came after just six minutes when Hao Junmin wriggled free, only for Iran defender Ramin Rezaeian to slide in with a superb goal-line clearance to deny Wu Lei a tap-in.
Iran could have been out of sight by half-time as Azmoun — known by Team Melli fans as the “Iranian Messi” — twice went close and Taremi missed an open goal.
Ehsan Hajsafi forced a sharp save from Yan on the hour mark before Ansarifard raced clear to add a third in stoppage time. — AFP