‘Pure madness’: Iraq red card controversy blows up Asian Cup

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Jordan will meet Tajikistan in the Asian Cup quarter-finals after scoring twice in three minutes deep in stoppage time to stun Iraq 3-2 in a thriller on Monday.

But the result only came after a scandalous moment which saw Iraq’s Aymen Hussein handed a second yellow card for excessive celebrating after he put his nation ahead.

Jordan had opened the scoring just before halftime before Iraq responded with a 68th minute goal to Saad Natiq before Hussein gave his side the lead in the 76th minute.

It was a massive moment in the match that got a whole lot bigger after Hussein celebrated with his team, before sitting down and mimicking Jordan’s celebration from earlier in the match.

After their goal, several Jordan players sat down and pretended to eat the grass — an act Hussein replicated in the 77th minute.

But referee Alireza Faghani wasn’t having it, giving the striker a second yellow card and leaving his side a man down.

However, there were plenty of questions over the decision considering Hussein didn’t remove his jersey, which since 2004 has been considered excessive celebration and results in a yellow card.

Players must also be cautioned if they climb the perimetre fence or approach spectators in a way that causes security issues, are time-wasting, “gesturing or acting in a provocative, derisory or inflammatory way” or covering their head or face with a mask or their jersey.

Social media erupted over the situation.

Despite the man-advantage, Jordan still needed to score the goals but looked down and out in injury time.

That was until Yazan Al-Arab pounced on a deflection to prod in a 95th-minute leveller.

If that was hard to believe, better was to come two minutes later for Jordan when Nizar Al-Rashdan curled in from well outside the box to fire the underdogs into the last eight and spark wild celebrations.

Iraq’s heartbroken players were left flat-out on the turf, their dreams of repeating the country’s fairytale 2007 Asian Cup title somehow snatched from their grasp.

Iraq’s Spanish coach Jesus Casas said the send off changed the game.

“Of course the sending-off was the turning point,” Casas said.

“I don’t understand how a referee can send a player off for celebrating.

“When this happened we had to make changes and this complicated our task.”

It wasn’t the end of the chaos however as Iraq’s post-match press conference descending into what Iraq’s football association called “abhorrent behaviour” when angry Iraqi reporters confronted Casas, before security stepped in to usher them away.

Casas was himself angered in Sunday’s pre-match press conference by a question about interviews he has done with Spanish media during the Asian Cup.

Some journalists from Iraq, the country which won the Asian title in 2007, believe the interviews distracted him from his work and were partly to blame for the defeat.

Casas rubbished that notion, pointing out that his team had won all three of their group games, including beating pre-tournament favourites Japan 2-1.

Jordan’s coach Hussein Ammouta agreed with Casas that the harsh dismissal of Hussein for a second yellow card, for over-celebrating what he thought was Iraq’s winner, changed the game.

“The second half belonged to them, they scored two goals and then had to continue with 10 players,” Ammouta said.

The result was another shock in an Asian Cup of shocks with World No. 63 Iraq sitting 24 places ahead of the No. 87 ranked Jordan.

Jordan, who held South Korea 2-2 in the group phase, next face a Tajikistan side who are one of the surprise packages of the competition on their Asian Cup debut, who are ranked No. 106 in the FIFA rankings.

The winner of that match will play the winner of the Socceroos quarterfinal against either South Korea or Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup semi-final.

For the record, Australia are ranked No. 25, South Korea No. 23 and Saudi Arabia No. 56.