DUBAI // A day before the final of the Intercontinental Cup, the organisers seemed a bit worried, apprehensive that the huge turnout of Russian and Iranian fans could create some friction.
Their fears proved unfounded as both sets of fans, after enjoying a scintillating finale on Saturday night to the eight-nation tournament, dispersed without causing any headaches. The Iranians, however, returned home as the happier lot after their team defeated the two-time reigning world champions 4-3 for the title.
With seating for 3,000, the stands were packed to the rafters. Many fans were still climbing the steps to the stands when their team took the lead after only 54 seconds, through Mohammed Ahmedzadeh, the all-time leading goalscorer in Asia. Just like that, in the eighth minute, Anatoliy Peremitin headed in the equaliser.
If there was a roof over the stand, it would have probably lifted off in the ninth minute of the second period when Mostafa Kiani put Iran in the lead once again. The roar that followed was deafening, but with 51.5 seconds left in the period, Dmitry Shishin brought Russia back to level.
The Asian champions took the lead again in the opening second of the third period, with Ahmadzadeh scoring from the kick off, and before the end of the first minute, their lead had swelled to 4-2 when captain Ali Naderi tapped home.
Russia were back in the game five minutes later when Kiani deflected a corner into his own net and then, with only 16 seconds left on the clock, he gave away a penalty for a hand ball.
However, Shishin failed to find the target from the spot, to the huge relief of the Iranian fans.
“This is a dream come true for us,” said the Iran coach Marco Octavio. “We have worked over the past two years and I can proudly say, our project has become a reality. We are not just good team in Asia, but a good team on the global stage because to beat a team like Russia is not easy and we did it twice here.”
Earlier, the UAE rallied to beat Switzerland 8-7 in the third-place play-off to match their best finish in the tournament. Hassan Ali scored four goals while Buti Abdulhussain contributed two.
The UAE began the final period trailing 3-1, but fought back, with Karim Ali flicking home the winner 59.2 seconds from time.
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