United Arab Emirates coach Mahdi Ali has risked a fine after calling into doubt Japanese referee Ryuji Sato’s impartiality following his side’s Asian Cup loss to Iran on Monday.
Ali blasted the official, claiming the stoppage-time goal which gave Iran a dramatic 1-0 win was offside, and suggested that tournament organisers should never have given the game to a referee from Japan with one of the two teams set to face the Blue Samurai in the quarter-finals.
Reza Ghoochannejhad headed the winner in the 91st minute to secure top spot for Iran in Group C, meaning they will likely avoid Japan in the quarter-finals.
The last-ditch goal, which replays showed to be onside, deprived the UAE of winning the group and puts them on a collision course with the defending champions.
“I think it was offside,” fumed Ali, adding that Iran’s players had tricked the referee and his assistant. “At the end of the game when the goal was scored (Sato) was hesitating because he didn’t know what to do. The linesman didn’t know what to do.
“In our opinion it was offside but it took him too much time to say it was, because the Iranian players were very clever and they ran (away).”
Ali could find himself on thin ice as his comments come a day after Japan playmaker Keisuke Honda and Iran coach Carlos Queiroz were hit with heavy fines for outbursts against referees at the Asian Cup.
“I don’t want to speak about the referee,” he snapped. “I’ve been playing and involved in football for more than 35 years, since I was about six years old, and I never speak about the referee.
“I’m just surprised at how the game was given to a Japanese referee and maybe we play against Japan in the next round.”
An emotional Ali then described it as curious that defender Walid Abbas was shown his second yellow card of the tournament, ruling him out of the quarter-finals.
“That’s very strange,” added Ali. “I think it’s a question that needs to be answered by the AFC (Asian Football Confederation).”
The AFC are likely to take a dim view of Ali’s comments, however, after fining Honda and Queiroz $5,000 and $3,000 respectively. – Agence France-Presse