1004 GMT May 21, 2018
Ali-Asghar Hassanzadeh gave Iran the lead in the first half, and further goals from Farhad Tavakoli, Hossein Tayebi and Hassanzadeh again secured Iran a second consecutive title, the-afc.com reported.
The battle between the continent’s two futsal giants began as expected, with both sides playing a high pressure game with intense marking from the first blow of the whistle, and Mahdi Javid came dangerously close for Iran in the opening minutes when his effort struck the goal frame.
Japan head coach Bruno Garcia kept his players fully charged with flying substitutions which forced Iran to constantly adapt to the changing formations.
Both sides were evenly matched and had their fair share of possession, but Japan had the upper hand in shots on target, and after 17 minutes of play, Ryosuke Nishitani came closest for the East Asians with his effort from a difficult angle rocking the bar.
But a minute from the halftime whistle, Tavakoli intercepted Japan goalkeeper Higor Pires’ long range pass, and surged down the left flank before sending a neat pass to skipper Hassanzadeh for a fine shot to the bottom right to break the deadlock at the Xinzhuang Gymnasium.
Just 20 seconds into the second half, Iran threatened with Javid’s cross into the box but Ahmad Esmaeilpour just failed to connect but two minutes later, Tavakoli made no mistake from close range to double Iran’s lead.
Esmaeilpour displayed spectacular individual skill when he moved on the counter in the 29th minute, dribbling through the Japanese defense before passing it to Hassanzadeh, who finished superbly.
Japan was impressive in moving the ball between tight spaces, but the Iranian defense seemed almost impenetrable, and with five minutes left, the Japanese team opted for the power play with Kaoru Morioka coming in as the fifth attacking force.
Despite numerous attempts, it backfired with Tayebi shooting into an unguarded goalmouth in the final minute to claim a convincing victory.
Iran’s star Tayebi emerged top scorer at the competition with a haul of 14 goals.
Tayebi edged two-time AFC Most Valuable Player of The Year and teammate, Hassanzadeh who scored two goals in the final to finish second with 12.
It was Tayebi's second top-scorer award following his first win four years ago in Vietnam.
Tayebi was instrumental throughout the tournament as he scored hat-tricks against Myanmar, China and Thailand. His last goal of the tournament against The Samurai Five summed up his fantastic tournament.
“This is something I’m very happy about, but I’m just happy for my team. I’m not thinking of myself, whether I’m the top scorer or not. The success must be for my team, rather than for myself. The secret to our success is concentration."
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan secured third place in the championship, defeating Iraq 2-1 in a penalty shootout after the exciting third-place playoff ended 4-4.
Iraq – which achieved an AFC Futsal Championship high of fourth place won the Fair Play Award.
Iraq had been a revelation throughout the tournament and based on its form in the competition, Iraqis will be a team to be reckoned with in the future.