Team Melli defeated China 1-0 in the seventh round of the FIFA World Cup 2018 Asian zone qualifiers to cement its lead on group A. Iran now leads the group with 17 points , four ahead of closest rival Korea Republic with 3 rounds to go.
The match was played in front of capacity crowd estimated to be over 110,000 fans played early in the afternoon, The doors of the stadium had to be closed early as the fans were still flocking in with the stadium already full.
China which defeated Korea in the last round , was hoping to repeat the same against Iran to have any chance of reaching the World Cup for only its second time in history. A large number of Chinese fans all wearing red , were in Azadi;s special guests section cheering their team. Marcello Lippi has successfully led the Chinese in the last two matches.
The first half :
Queiroz made 3 changes in the line up from the Qatar match including Ghoochannejad replacing Azmoun in forward line, while Shojae replaced Hajsafy. TM did not waste much time going forward as Ghoochannejad shot powerfully in the 6th minute for the Chinese keeper Zeng Cheng to parry over the bar for corner.
Following a series of slick passing moves in the 20th minute, Jahanbakhsh fired a shot that just shaved the bar
Next serious threat on Chinese goal was on minute 35 where Taremi’s shot was saved by the outstretched legs of Zeng Cheng.
Team Melli continued its assault on China’s goal and should have scored a minute later after another set of passes following quick interchange of positions. Masoud Shojaei, the captain of the team, sent a measured ball to the fast advancing Milad Mohammadi on the left flank. The Grozny player controlled the ball nicely, passed his marker and was one on one with Zeng Cheng. However, with the angle closing and becoming acute , Mohammadi shot was met by the excellent Chinese custodian, and sent to the corner.
5 minutes later , another marvelous passing game, this time from the right resulted in Ghafoori sending an inch perfect pass to Shojaei. The Captain shot cleanly but once again Zeng Cheng saved China’s blushes. The ensuing corner saw Taremi’s scissor kick marginally missing target.
The first half ended goal-less.
It only took 30 seconds in the second half for Iran to take the lead. After a series of shamble clearances by the Chinese defense, Taremi found the ball at his feet inside the six yards box. His halfhearted lefty shot beat the wrong footed Zeng Cheng and finally passed the goal line.
It was much deserved and long waited goal for Team Melli.
China on the other hand, showed very little initiative and ambition. Only late in the second half that the Chinese really pressed hard to score an equalizer , which incidentally would not have made a big difference in their chances.
Iran now awaits the crucial encounter at Azadi with Uzbekistan. A win, will guarantee Iran early qualification.