Abu Dhabi: Oman coach Pim Verbeek graciously accepted his side’s 2-0 defeat against Iran saying that his team were beaten by an outfit rated as No. 1 in Asia and one of the favourites to win the competition.

“I really enjoyed the game and I enjoyed the atmosphere. I enjoyed the fight but we knew, of course, we were up against the No. 1 team,” said Verbeek.

“Iran went up 2-0 in the first half and we tried everything possible in the second period, at least to score a goal and close the gap to 2-1. But everybody could see Iran kept the game under their control.”

The Gulf Cup champions had a huge moment early in the match after Muhsen Al Ghassani won a penalty. But captain Ahmad Al Mahaijri’s effort was brilliantly saved by Iran goalkeeper Ali Reza Beiranvand.

Verbeek, however, brushed aside that the early goal would have been decisive in the outcome of the match.

“With 88 minutes left in the game, it was hard to say if that goal could have made any difference to the result.

“In football, everything is possible but a goal for us so early in the game wouldn’t have guaranteed a win. We had a fantastic tournament up to this point,” said Verbeek asserting that the team need not be “ashamed” about their loss. “I’m very proud of my players and my staff as they did a great job. There was unbelievable support from the Oman fans and the Iran fans as well. It’s a fantastic experience for my players and fantastic to play matches like this. We are disappointed, of course, we lost. But we have to move on with this young team.”

Iran will be meeting China next in the quarter-finals and coach Carlos Queiroz hailed his side’s win but credited Oman for the fight they put up especially in the second half.

“It’s the first time in my lifetime I had seen a penalty against my team so early in the game,” he said. “We nearly conceded a goal on a mistake due to lack of concentration but Beiranvand made a great save.

“In the second phase of the game, we missed scoring goals from the chances we created one after the other and we finished the game at 2-0.

“We must congratulate Verbeek for a wonderful performance. Generally speaking, we are the strongest team in the competition.

“We played pretty decent game and more or less we deserved to move to the next round. I want to praise the performance of my team based on merit and quality of the players for the win over Oman.”

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who put Iran in the lead, said: “The matches ahead are going to be even more difficult and there is no time from celebrations as of now. We have to get ready from tomorrow and recover well for the next match against China. They are a good side and we will need to give our best to win against them.”

Captain Ashkan Dejagah, who scored the second goal via a penalty, hailed the performance of Beiranvand under the bar and said they are a tremendous unit.

“It was Beiranvand’s game and he showed he is a great goalkeeper,” he said. “We know lot of people are talking about us and that’s because we are a good side. But we have to be smart as there is still a long way. China is a good side and they have a good coach in Marcello Lippi. China have made a big step forward and we will have a tough match against them.”