After scoring in the 80th minute to make it 1—1, Zob Ahan needed to keep the score as is to advance to the semifinal stage. Referees need to stay focused and understand that time wasting is a natural tactic or “trick” adopted by teams to “run down the clock” (match reports here and here).
However, what happened in the 86th minute was excessive play-acting, as shown by the following freeze frames:
Referee Benjamin Williams from Australia exhibited good officiating and good patience when he cautioned Mahdi Rajabzadeh (white #30) for unsporting behaviour.
With the excessive amount of rolling exhibited by Rajabzadeh, it was clearly obvious that he could have easily rolled out of the field of play (the touchline was less than a yard away) to receive treatment. Instead, he insisted on being stretchered off. Since the stretcher-bearers at the stadium used golf carts, this incident became a farce when the player was put on a stretcher, lifted up on to the golf cart and then driven a couple of yards forward over the touch line and off the pitch.
For his unsporting behaviour, Rajabzadeh received his second caution of the game and therefore a red card. Perhaps players like Rajabzadeh who like to perform theatrics at the expense of others should be made to feel embarrassed by their childish behaviour.
Even Zob Ahan coach Mansour Ebrahimzadeh admitted:
"If he was injured seriously there was nothing we can do about it but even for me, it was too much. I have to admit it. I think Rajabzadeh did the wrong thing.”It's nice to hear coaches talking sense, but it would be even better if coaches showed that they genuinely mean what they say by taking action against their own players (i.e. with fines, reprimands).
Match Officials for Pohang Steelers (Kor) vs Zobahan (Iran)
Match Commissioner: Zachariah Joseph (Ind)
Referee Assessor : Samuel Chan Yam Ming (Hkg)
Referee : Benjamin Williams (Aus)
Assistant Referee 1 : Benjamin Wilson (Aus)
Assistant Referee 2: Denis Silk (Aus)
Fourth Official: Vo Minh Tri (Vie)