Iran overcome spirited UAE, Saudi stun Japan

Filed on October 8, 2021 | Last updated on October 8, 2021 at 12.14 am
Iran’s defender Sadegh Moharrami (left) vies for the ball with UAE’s midfielder Abdulla Hamad during the World Cup qualifying match. — AFP

The Whites remain third with two points from three matches in Group A

Mehdi Taremi’s second-half strike proved decisive as Iran beat hosts UAE 1-0 in the third round of the AFC World Cup Qualifiers at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai on Thursday.

Iran maintained their top position in Group A with their third straight win. UAE remained third with two points from three matches in Group A. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia extended their perfect start to their campaign in Group B, defeating Asian giants Japan 1-0 at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium on Thursday to move up to nine points.

Super sub Firas Al Buraikan’s composed finish in the 71st minute earned three points for Saudi Arabia.

In Dubai, UAE were unable to end their long winless run against Iran.

Bert van Marwijk’s men now face a must-win situation when they play their next game on Tuesday against Iraq, who were held to a goalless draw by Lebanon on Thursday.

Clear goal scoring chances were at a premium in a keenly contested first half in Dubai on Thursday.

An early delivery from the industrious Sadegh Moharrami provided one of those opportunities for Sardar Azmoun, but the Zenit star missed the target with his header, while UAE might have wished it was Ali Mabkhout and not Khalil Ibrahim on the end of their brightest chance, with the latter also heading wide after a burst of speed from Fabio Lima had stretched the otherwise solid Iranian defence.

Iran had seized the initiative and Khasief was finally called into meaningful action when Jahanbakhsh forced him into a low save, but the pendulum looked to have swung sharply in the UAE’s favour when Shojae Khalilzadeh – exemplary until then - was shown a straight red card for fouling a goalbound Mabkhout, only for the Iranian defender to escape punishment after the Video Assistant Referee spotted an offside earlier in the move.

The turnaround in Iran’s fortunes was complete in the 70th minute, when Taremi played a superb give-and-go with Azmoun to get behind the UAE defence before easily beating the questionably positioned Khaseif from just outside the penalty to break the deadlock.

The visitors had a golden chance to add to the scoring when they were awarded a penalty after Taremi was impeded by Abdullah Ramadan in the dying minutes, but Khaseif saved brilliantly to deny Azmoun from the penalty spot.

That gave Van Marwijk’s side a glimmer of hope, but a last gasp equaliser didn’t materialise making Tuesday’s clash against Iraq one of the utmost importance for UAE.

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