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Group A: Hong Kong 3-7 IR Iran 

Tabriz: Islamic Republic of Iran overcame spirited resistance to defeat Hong Kong 7-3 as the defending champions kicked off their AFC U-20 Futsal Championship 2019 Group A campaign on an emphatic note at the Pour Sharifi Stadium on Friday.

Hong Kong, down 3-0 by the third minute, clawed their way back to 3-2 but Iran turned on the power in the second half to score a resounding win as they look to defend their title.

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Iran had the best of starts when Hong Kong’s Wong Wai Kwok fouled Masoud Yousef Shavardazi outside the box, and Salar Aghapour unleashed a free-kick that ‘keeper Cheng Chun Wa failed to keep out in the second minute.

Ali Akrami made it 2-0 less than a minute later when he connected to Reze Ghanbarisaeid’s corner kick, before doubling his personal tally with a smooth strike from near the second penalty spot.

Hong Kong tightened their defence, using their bodies when needed to stop Iran’s non-stop offence, and their approach was successful in plugging the gaps.

Despite being down by three goals and playing against a partisan crowd, Hong Kong showed promise with their runs down the court. Their resolve and patience paid off in the 14th minute when Wong slotted in Leo Chow Ka Lok’s kick-in.

Chan Fei Tat’s side grew in confidence after that and it resulted in Wong scoring his second of the night with an audacious flick that caught Akrami and custodian Mohammadali Niknamtorghabe off guard in the 17th minute.

Less than a minute into the restart, the Iranian supporters were back on their feet after Aghapour tapped in Belal Esmaeili Kooraneh’s pin-point pass to the side post.

Hong Kong, mindful of Iran’s attacking prowess, played mostly in their own half, patiently waiting to pounce through counter-attacks or use long passes to find Lee Oi Hin near the Iran penalty area, but Hamid Moghadam's team showed no signs of slowing down on their attacks.

Iran restored their three-goal lead in the 28th minute after a quick exchange of passes left Hong Kong bewildered, creating space for Esmaeili Kooraneh to chip the ball over Aaron Law Ho Yeung.

Aghapour was at it again at the half-hour mark when Aaron Law could only parry his strike, and Shavardazi reacted quickly to make it 6-2.

Despite the match having already been lost, Hong Kong kept plugging away and Wong pulled a goal back in the 35th minute to complete his hat-trick, but it was Iran who had the last word, with Aghapour tapping in his third goal of the night in the last minute.

Hong Kong, however, would have been boosted by their performance and will be aiming for three points when they face Afghanistan on Saturday.

Chan Fei Tat: Hong Kong head coach

“It was a very exciting game. We expected that Iran would press us from the beginning, and due to a lack of concentration, we conceded three goals. After that, we recovered well. In the second half, our fitness was not up to par, and we were careless. I don’t think that Iran were stronger in the second half, it was just that we made mistakes. My target is to reach the knockout stage, and after playing such a tough game today, it’s all about the recovery for tomorrow’s match against Afghanistan. If our players perform as well as today, I’m confident our team can qualify.”

Hamid Moghadam: IR Iran head coach

“We played very well and of course we were well aware that the conditions in the first match will always be tough, which is natural for the first match of the tournament. As I’ve mentioned before, futsal in Asia is developing and that includes Hong Kong. I applaud Hong Kong for a good game today.”

Photos: AFC