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Iran's soccer coach Ivankovic blames referee for semi loss to China

Tehran, Aug 4, IRNA -- Iran's Croat coach Branko Ivankovic slammed the Lebanese referee Talaat Najm after his side lost to host China on penalties in the 13th Asian Cup semifinal in Beijing Tuesday night.

The home team snatched a dramatic 4-3 win in deciding shootouts after the two sides failed to break a first-half 1-1 draw at the extra-time.

China keeper Liu Yunfei saved the decisive spot-kick from Iran full-back Yahya Golmohammadi.

The Iranian side received a heavy blow from the referee two minutes after the interval when defender Sattar Zare' pushed Chinese scorer Shao Jiayi in the chest gently in an off-the-ball incident and Najm went too far and red-carded him unexpectedly as the captain feigned injury theatrically.

"That was 1,000 percent never a red card," said Ivankovic. "We expected this sort of thing might happen. Maybe it deserved a yellow card but the referee made a mistake sending off."

China should pat the referee on the back for his another great favor.

Iranian ace Ali Karimi, who cleared his marker Zhang Yaokun to meet Liu alone was brutally brought down on the edge of the penalty area but the Chinese player was fined just with a yellow card by gracious Najm, who revealed his double standard.

Ivankovic was furious that the referee produced only a yellow card.

"That was not just a red card -- it was worth three or four red cards," Ivankovic said. "It was ridiculous that he stayed on the pitch. He should be suspended for four games."

Prior to semifinal showdown, China coach Arie Haan in a message to his Iranian counterpart Ivankovic had said, "You must not forget one thing. In this Asian Cup, China is the boss, we are the hosts of the tournament. We must use the home field advantage."

Ivankovic said, "Usually, I don't say anything about the referees but against China, the referee made some big mistakes that cost us," he said.

"Something should have been done but what can you do?"

... Payvand News - 8/4/04 ... --

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