The Asian Cup last 16 clash between Iraq and Jordan ended in chaos on Monday after Aymen Hussein was sent off for a seemingly ‘inflammatory’ celebration following his country’s second goal. Hussein struck with 14 minutes remaining to put Iraq 2-1 ahead and then proceeded to sit on the floor and mock Jordan’s goal celebration that followed their opening strike.
Jordan took full advantage of their one-man advantage as they scored two goals deep into stoppage time at the end of the match to secure a 3-2 victory. But the matchwinner Nizar Al-Rashdan was then sent off for removing his shirt.
The first half proved to be an even affair at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar, with neither side able to break the deadlock in the first 45 minutes. But as the match ticked into stoppage time at the end of the opening period, Yazan Al-Naimat put Jordan 1-0 ahead.
The striker then ran off the pitch to gather four team-mates, with the players sitting cross-legged behind the substitutes’ bench while simulating the action of eating with their hands, a common practice in southern parts of Asia. Iraq drew level in the 68th minute as Saad Natiq got his name on the scoresheet.
And Jesus Casas’ team took the lead eight minutes later through Hussein, who unleashed an effort into the bottom corner. Hussein then repeated the Jordan celebration next to the corner flag.
And, remarkably, he was shown a second yellow card for his actions as referee Alireza Faghani went on to brandish a red card. None of the Jordan players appeared to be offended by the celebration, and Hussein and his Iraq team-mates were left stunned by the decision from the referee, who clearly had felt that it was inflammatory.
And the red card derailed Casas’ side as they were unable to repel a late fightback from Jordan. With Jordan pressing for a second goal, Yazan Al-Arab finally bagged an equaliser in the fifth minute of injury time.
And with the match heading for extra time, Al-Rashdan bagged the winner in the 97th minute before being given his marching orders. The controversial sending-off of Hussein saw tempers flare at the post-match press conference, with over a dozen Iraqi journalist walking out and shouting at head coach Casas before security and officials stepped in.
Speaking after the match, Casas said: “In a big tournament like the Asian Cup you cannot exclude a player after celebrating a goal. The same happened in the first half with the Jordanian players [celebrating] and the referee didn’t take any action.
The problem was in the timing of this red card. It took place after we had used all our substitutions, so it was a very difficult situation.
We didn’t have the chance to make any changes inside the pitch.”
Iraq reached the last 16 of the Asian Cup after winning all their group matches to finish top of Group D. Jordan, meanwhile, progressed to the knockout stages of the tournament despite finishing third in Group E with only one win to their name. But Monday’s result means Jordan are now set for a quarter-final showdown with Tajikistan at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Friday, with Iraq heading home with thoughts of what might have been.