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Experience helped us to recover - Mahdavikia

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AFCAC – Iran captain Mehdi Mahdavikia said that the experience of his team helped them to overcome the absence of head coach Amir Ghalenoei and a two-goal deficit on Sunday as they drew 2-2 with China at the AFC Asian Cup.

In a pulsating encounter at Bukit Jalil Stadium, China went ahead 2-0 with goals by Shao Jiayi and Mao Jianqing in the first 33 minutes.

But Ferydoon Zandi cut the deficit just before the break before Javad Nekounam headed home the equaliser levelled the score with a 73rd minute header.

“We fell behind by two goals but in the second half, we were better than China and we were able to come from behind,” said the 29-year-old who recently joined Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.

“We didn’t play well early on but after half-time, we had more opportunities and chances to score, so I think that a tie with China was a fair result.

“It was very difficult for us today but it shows that we are an experienced team because we were able to come from two goals behind to get a point.”

Coach Ghalenoei had to watch the game from the stands after being dismissed in the previous game against Uzbekistan for throwing a water bottle. But Mahdavikia felt that his absence from the bench was not a big concern for his side on Sunday.

“Of course, it was difficult for us because we didn’t have the head coach there. But we have experienced players on this team, so it wasn’t too big a problem,” the Iranian skipper said.

“And the goal just before half-time was crucial because it gave us a lift for the second half.”

The result leaves the two sides tied on four points at the top of the group after two games.

However, with only a game to come against group whipping boys Malaysia, Mahdavikia is confident of getting a result that would see them finishing in first place and remaining in Kuala Lumpur for the knockout stage.

“We were hoping to make up for the semi-final defeat of 2004 but we are happy with the result after recovering from two goals down.

“Our goal is to get a big win against Malaysia in our last game because we want to remain in Kuala Lumpur for the quarter-finals,” he concluded.

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