ABU DHABI // Hassan Ajenoui, the UAE coach, was left to rue on the missed scoring opportunities as his team fell to Iran 4-1 in Thursday night's West Asian Women's Championship Group B at the Sultan bin Zayed stadium.
Maryam Rahimi scored twice for Iran, who also got goals from Niloofar Ardallani, from a spot kick, and Sara Ghomi Marzdashti. Sabrine Mamay had earlier struck a 20th-minute equaliser for the UAE.
"Iran scored from the four opportunities they got and we scored one from the 10 chances we had," said Ajenoui. "That made all the difference in otherwise a game I thought was an evenly contested game."
Ajenoui also pointed out to the fitness of his side as Iran were still running full steam in the last quarter, scoring twice in the last 10 minutes to take the game away from the UAE.
"I had this fear on the physical conditions of my players and it showed [Thursday night]. It is something that I had not much time to work on. They started well and when it came midway in the second half their fitness was tested.
"Iran were much fitter and faster. The first quarter of the match belonged to us, the second quarter to them. We were the better team in the third quarter and Iran was better in the last quarter. That's why I said the game was 50-50 besides the result.
Iran opened the scoring in the 11th minute through Rahimi.
Mamay struck the equaliser nine minutes later, but Iran regained the lead from a penalty kick by Ardallani after Rahimi was brought down by Aicha Barbou past the half-hour. The UAE pressed hard on resumption but they missed a flurry of chances, including a close-range shot from Oufae Nacha which crashed against the crossbar. And Delila Zerrouki shot wide in front of an open goal.
Iran then scored twice in the last 10 minutes.
Rahimi ran almost half the field before unleashing a close shot past Khadija Oussat, the UAE goalkeeper, and Marzdashti completed the win two minutes into added time for Iran to go top of the group.
"It was a very good game between two strong teams, and I think it is possible for both to meet again in the final," said Mariya Esfahan, Iran's assistant coach.
The UAE played an unchanged side that trounced Syria 6-0 in the opener. Ajenoui added: "Two games in three days seemed a bit hard on the players. I had to play the best available team against the strongest opponent in the group."