Beirut: Three-time champions Iran confirmed their place at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup after ending Lebanon’s qualification hopes following a convincing 4-1 win in Group B on Tuesday.
Amirhossein Sadeghi opened the scoring just before half-time at Sports City Stadium before Askhan Dejagah, AFC Player of the Year nominee Javad Nekounam and Reza Ghoochannejhad struck in the second half as Iran unbeaten Iran recorded a fourth win five games.
And with Kuwait beating Thailand 3-1, Lebanon saw their hopes of a first AFC Asian Cup appearance since hosting the 2000 edition ended following a second defeat in Group B despite Mohamad Haidar’s late consolation.
“Lebanon played well and they deserved a better result as they were fighting throughout the match.” said Iran coach Carlos Quieroz, who also guided his side to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
“However, we were the better side and we knew how to score goals in order to secure the three points.”
Iran only needed to avoid defeat to seal their qualification, but took the lead six minutes before half-time as Sadeghi powered home an unstoppable towering header from a left wing corner.
And the visitors doubled their lead five minutes into the second half as Ghoochannejhad played a pass across the edge of the penalty area and Dejagah beat Lebanon goalkeeper Abbas Hassan with a composed first-time finish.
Iran added a third four minutes later as Masoud Shojaei was pulled back by Ali Hamam inside the area and Nekounam confidently sent Hassan the wrong way from the resulting penalty.
And Iran’s fourth arrived four minutes after the hour mark as Shojaei’s deft chip played in Ghoochannejhad and the Belgium-based forward skipped past Hassan before poking the ball home from inside the six-yard area.
But despite seeing their qualification hopes ended, Lebanon’s night did end of a high note courtesy of Haidar superb individual goal with 11 minutes remaining.
“The match was very hard for us as we were playing against a strong side and the situation before the match was not ideal to play football as the players were mentally distracted and they couldn’t give their best,” said Lebanon coach Giuseppe Giannini.
“We were good in the first half but the performance dropped in the second period especially when we conceded the second goal which affected the mentality and morality of the players who didn’t continue with the same motivation.
“On the other side, Iran were good and they took advantage of the chances that they had. We were playing against a strong side who are in a good place in the FIFA ranking. Our problem was in the last third as we couldn’t find solutions, and despite making some changes, we failed to make a good comeback.”