Ghotbi: Beating Iraq was 'very special'

Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi has declared his side's AFC Asian Cup victory over holders and great rivals Iraq as "very special".

"When these two teams play each other there's so much rivalry and history," said Ghotbi. "So it's very difficult to get the players to concentrate and focus on football and it becomes a fighting game, I was very happy my players were able to concentrate and could get this very special three points."

Iran, traditionally one of the major powers in the region, have not lifted the AFC Asian Cup since 1976 and the pressure is firmly on the 46-year-old Ghotbi to bring that long barren run to an end.

They got off to a bad start at the Al-Rayyan Stadium yesterday, however, with Iraq striker Younis Mahmoud scoring after just 13 minutes. But they soon worked their way back into an entertaining match, with the nimble-footed Gholam Reza Rezai netting the leveller three minutes from the break. Iman Mobali's free-kick sealed the victory six minutes from time.

I was very happy my players were able to concentrate and could get this very special three points.
Afshin Ghotbi, Iran coach

"The game was complicated for us because of the rivalry between the two sides and also it was the first match of the tournament, while Iraq are the defending champions," said Ghotbi, who is moving to Japan's J-League next month. Ghotbi, who cut his coaching teeth in the USA, will take over Shimizu S-Pulse, becoming the first Iranian to manage in Japan.

"After going one down, I was confident that we could come back," he said. "I have experience of playing against Iraq and they are the masters of killing time, so I thought that if we score before the half-time then we have a chance to win.

"We started the game a little stressed and that had something to do with the mistakes that we made. Then the game became more organised and I'm sure we can play even better football in the next game."

Iran next face Korea DPR on Saturday in Group D, while Iraq take on United Arab Emirates.