DOHA: Iran coach Ardeshir Ghalehnoy apologised to Team Melli fans for failing to lead the team into the 2023 Asian Cup final after losing 2-3 to holders Qatar in their semi final match at the Al Thumama Stadium here tonight (midnight Malaysian time).

Ghalehnoy said the team has a responsibility to please the entire Iranian people, but the failure of his side to finish off several opportunities was the biggest factor that led to the defeat.

“I apologise to the people of Iran because we have a responsibility to make them happy because we should have reached the final but didn’t make it. I thank the entire coaching staff and team officials and all the players.

“The second half was our best performance with many good attempts but this is football, when we don’t get what we need from the chances we create, we will be punished,“ he told a post-match press conference here.

At the same time, despite defending his team better from a tactical point of view, Ghalehnoy still took full responsibility for the defeat.

“From a tactical aspect we had a very good match, if you are looking for someone to blame it is me, not the association (Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran). This is the worst day of my life,“ he said.

In the clash, Iran took the lead as early as the fourth minute through Sardar Azmoun before trailing 1-2 after Jassem Gaber Abdulsallam equalised in the 17th minute followed by Qatar’s second goal by Akram Afif in the 43rd minute.

Iran, who knocked out top seed Japan in the quarter finals, then tied the score 2-2 through Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s penalty in the 51st minute, but Almoez Ali, the top scorer of the 2019 edition, ensured Qatar reached the final with his winning goal in the 82nd minute.

The defeat saw Iran continue to fail to set foot on the Asian Cup final after last doing so when winning the third title in 1976 in Tehran.–Bernama

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