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Indoor Rivals Iran Take Chinese Taipei To Task (27/07/2011)

 By Eddie dos Passos/HKHA

Iran pulled off the shocker of this Asian Hockey Federation Cup tournament when they tore apart Chinese Taipei 2-1 to advance to the next phase of the competition.

Playing in only their third match on an artificial surface at King’s Park, the Iranians were expected to keel over against the Chinese Taipei side, who had entered the fray as one of the tournament’s dark horses’ after notching up a convincing 7-1 win against Hong Kong, followed up with a 2-2 draw with Sri Lanka and were expected to tie up formalities against Iran.

But they were then shown the exit as Iran ungraciously taught them a lesson in playing hockey on their own terms.

“What has happened?! said a shocked Chinese Taipei coach, Tsai Yi Ming after the final whistle.

“All my players did not do their best,” he said, who is no stranger to this tournament and has seen him take a side to lift the inaugural Under-21 title, followed by a third place in the last edition.

He said he would launch a full inquiry upon returning home to find out what led to their downfall against Iran, who only play indoor hockey back home and were not expected to last against the fast and multi-talented Chinese Taipei side.

“We had our chances but we did not know what to do?” he said.

But he was philosophical in defeat and was gracious in accepting that he had been beaten by a better team.

“I can’t believe what has happened tonight but I can accept this, after all these are young players. Their spirit is gone today and they have nothing left in them,” he said.

As to the game itself, all Chinese Taipei needed was a draw and despite a better second half, by then it had become academically unreachable.

“We need to forget! Just forget!” said Tsai.

For Iran, their win over Chinese Taipei has elevated them to become the tournament’s dark horse after improving with each passing game.

“This is the beginning of the road for Iran hockey, a new generation for us in the sport,” said an elated Iran coach Esfandar Safaei.

With the win, they are certain to be in the top four and will play in the qualifiers for next year’s Junior Asia Cup and the 2013 Junior World Cup.

He pointed out to ‘good old fashion’ strategy bagging them their first victory in this tournament.

“We played with two sweepers, man-to-man marking and three forwards,” he said.

“We knew who were their key players and it was all boiled down to three players, the brains of their team,” said Safaei.

He said he had spoken to his players and explained to them what was needed to get them past Chinese Taipei.

“We knew they (Chinese Taipei) liked to channel down both wings and move the ball inside the circle, and once blocked out they would have no answer against us,” said Safaei, who then ordered his forwards to dribble not to attack but to waste time in the second half.

Chinese Taipei began the match in similar fashion to their previous encounters, attacking aggressively while looking for holes in the Iran defense, but they were given an unpleasant surprise when they gave away a stroke before the half-hour mark.

Iran skipper Mohammad Karimi coolly stepped up to the spot and sent the Chinese Taipei keeper the wrong way, much to the elation of the whole Iranian camp.

That lead was then increased, two minutes later, when Navid Taherirad rounded the ’keeper to calmly set the ball rolling for what will certainly be joyous celebrations that will be heard in Iran.

Chinese Taipei saw a glimmer of hope when Chen Chih Hsiang bagged a penalty corner but it was a case of too little, too late and the rest became history.