In a shock result , Team Melli lost to Lebanon at Camille Shamoun Sport City by a solitary goal from a header by Redha Antar which proved to be the match winner, with the creative midfielder’s 28th-minute strike being the first goal Lebanon, ranked 124th by FIFA, had scored against their more illustrious opponents in this their eighth meeting.
Antar rose above the Iranian defense in front of his direct marker , Hossein Mahini to head home a free kick from Mohammad Haidar in the 28th minute, giving Lebanon its first goal ever against Iran. It proved to be the winner as Lebanon defended well for the rest of the game to deny the Iranians and claim all three points in the Asian Group A.
For Lebanon, competing in the fourth round of Asian World Cup qualifying for the first time, this was their first win in the group and with the point gained in a draw with Uzbekistan , they are now in par with Iran and Qatr with 4 points. The loss is Iran’s first in this World Cup qualification.
With quite a few players missing , the line up was a repeat of earlier ones tried by Queiroz that failed to impress , yet the Portuguese have stuck to the same names even playing Karim Ansarifad , whom he ignored initially due to poor form and was a last minute addition to the squad , to spearhead the attack.
Despite having most of the ball possession , Team Melli failed to take advantage of that control , while the Lebanese goalkeeper Abbas Hassan displayed a few heroics in both halves to deny the Iranians.
After scoring , the Lebanese then defended bravely and wasted time much to the irritation of Iran, who struggled badly on the atrocious pitch which lacked grass in several areas as the home side claimed the landmark win.
The result heaped more pressure on Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, the former Real Madrid and Portugal boss who has been criticized for his tactics , poor player selection , weak offensive line , as the team have struggled to score goals.
On Tuesday, they dominated possession and territory but came up against in-form Lebanese goalkeeper Abbas Hassan, who thwarted them on several occasions.
The headband-wearing goalkeeper, who was shown a yellow card for time-wasting, produced a string of solid saves, with his 95th-minute stop of Mohammad Ghazi’s strong header a highlight.
Inspirational captain Roda Antar returned from injury to score the crucial goal as Lebanon recorded a famous 1-0 win over Iran on Tuesday which kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals.
Antar, who had missed his team’s first three matches in Group A because of a knee injury, headed in a free-kick by Mohamad Haidar after 28 minutes to give the Cedars all three points at Sports City Stadium.
The Iranians dominated possession but struggled to carve out any clear openings until the very end when Lebanon goalkeeper Abbas Hassan made a series of outstanding saves to preserve the victory.
The win was Lebanon’s first ever against Team Melli, who had won six of the previous seven international meetings between the two sides. More importantly, it put Theo Bucker’s side right back into contention for a spot in the 2014 FIFA World Cup after they had managed only one point from their first three matches in the group.
They now have four points from four games, level with second-placed Iran and Qatar and three points behind group leaders Korea Republic, who drew 2-2 with Uzbekistan in an earlier match.
“We had a good performance today and I’m happy with what the players showed in the game,” said Lebanon coach Bucker. “We showed that we are capable of getting good results and now we have a good chance after this win to qualify although we must work hard.
“We played against a strong team but we believed that we could win and that helped us tonight. We now have to get some rest and prepare well for our next game against Qatar.”
While the Iranians enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, they did very little to trouble the home side, who were quite content to sit back and hit their opponents on the counter-attack.
And against the run of play, they took the lead just before the half-hour mark when Haidar floated in a free-kick from the right that picked out Antar on the edge of the six-yard box and the Lebanon captain expertly guided his header past goalkeeper Seyed Rahmati and into the net despite Pejman Nouri’s desperate attempt to clear the ball off the line.
With the lead in hand, the home side seemed prepared to shut down the game and continually frustrated their opponents by denying them space and holding up the ball while they were in possession.
A frustrated Carlos Queiroz sent on Ehsan Haji Safi and Mohammad Ghazi to replace Karim Ansari and Nouri at half-time but the visitors continued to struggle with Mohammed Noori’s header, which forced a sharp save from Abbas Hassan just before the hour, their only real chance early in the second half.
But Hassan would become more influential as the game entered its closing stage as he denied Javad Nekounam twice in a minute after turning aside a powerful volley from just inside the box and then diving low to keep out the Iran captain’s header from the resulting corner.
The Lebanon goalkeeper then made another brilliant save in stoppage time to deny Ghazi as the fans at the Sports City Stadium celebrated one of the most memorable results in their country’s football history.
Iran coach Queiroz felt that Abbas’ performance was the crucial difference between the two sides.
“Congratulations to Lebanon who won with the least possible effort,” said the Portuguese. “We had a good match and had a great performance but Lebanon had a good goalkeeper who had a great game and denied us a lot of times.
“Despite the defeat, we are still in the competition although the situation is now complicated. We missed several players today and Lebanon showed good fighting spirit which coupled with a good performance of their goalkeeper helped them to win.”
Earlier, South Korea held on to their lead at the top of the pool by drawing 2-2 away to Uzbekistan. The Koreans lead the way on seven points with Iran second on goal difference in the group’s other qualifying berth for Brazil 2014.
Match details here