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Asian Cup: Jordan produces stunning late comeback to beat Iraq following red card controversy

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — Jordan reached the quarterfinals of the 2023 Asian Cup after producing a remarkable late comeback thanks to two stoppage-time goals to beat Iraq 3-2 in controversial circumstances.

After Yazan Al-Naimat opened the scoring for Jordan just before half-time, goals from Iran’s Saad Natiq and Aymen Hussein in the second half turned the game on its head.

However, Hussein was shown a second yellow card by referee Alireza Faghani in the aftermath of the team’s celebrations for its second goal, leaving Iraq to play the final 13 minutes of regulation time with just 10 men.

The numerical advantage eventually made the difference for Jordan, as Yazan Al-Arab equalized in the 95th minute.

Jordan’s Hamza Al-Dardour was then shown a red card to leave both sides a man short, before Nizar Al-Rashdan scored the winning goal in the 97th minute.

Iraq head coach Jesús Casas, who is Spanish, said that Hussein’s red card had a “significant impact” on his side and said he couldn’t understand why the two celebrations were dealt with differently by Faghani.

After Al-Naimat’s opening goal, Jordan’s players sat in a circle on the turf and mimicked eating as a celebration and were not punished by Faghani.

Hussein copied the celebration after his goal, but was sent off.

“In any major tournament, players always celebrate scoring and a referee should not give a red card for a player celebrating a goal,” Casas told reporters in his post-match press conference.

“We all saw the Jordanian team’s celebrations when they scored, which were similar, and they didn’t get any card,” added Casas.

“The timing of the sending off caused us a big problem after we had made all our substitutions, and we had no additional substitutions left.

“However, I bear part of the responsibility for the loss, but there are others who bear greater responsibility than me for our defeat,” he added, likely referring to referee Faghani.

CNN has contacted the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for comment.

Hussain Al Khurasani, an Iraqi sport journalist and analyst, told CNN that the rule and reason for the red card was to avoid lengthy celebrations, but the Iraqi celebrations lasted 50 seconds compared to Jordan’s 49 seconds.

“I believe the referee’s decision was overly strict,” Al Khurasani said. “Considering that Aymen had already received a yellow card in the first half, a warning would have been more appropriate.

“Aymen Hussein’s sending off negatively impacted the game. Had he not been sent off, I think we could have potentially secured a 3-1 or even 4-1 victory.”

Born in Iran, Faghani migrated to Australia “for family reasons” in 2019 to officiate in the A-League, according to the AFC.

In January 2023, Football Australia announced that Faghani had joined the Australian match officials list for the first time.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Aqeel Najim contributed to this report.

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