Coach : Amir GHALENOEI
Javad Nekounam penalty Clip
Ando Teymourian goal Clip
A 29th minute penalty from Javad Nekounam coupled with a second half goal from Andranik Teymourian helped a struggling Iran secure a place in the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup as they narrowly beat resilient co-hosts Malaysia 2-0 on Wednesday night
KUALA LUMPUR - A 29th minute penalty from Javad Nekounam coupled with a second half goal from Andranik Teymourian helped a struggling Iran secure a place in the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup as they narrowly beat resilient co-hosts Malaysia 2-0 on Wednesday night
Needing to win convincingly in order to assure themselves of top spot in Group C and claim a place in the tournament's knockout phase, Iran were made to work all the way by a heroic Malaysian outfit.
Despite constantly struggling to find a way past Malaysia's massed ranks, Uzbekistan's 3-0 victory over China assured the Iranians of pole position and they now face the prospect of a last eight meeting with Korea Republic in Kuala Lumpur.
Iranian players and officials celebrated wildly at the final whistle, whilst Malaysian heads were held high, with some pride restored following the South East Asian outfit's 5-1 loss to China and the 5-0 drubbing they suffered at the hands of Uzbekistan.
Having called for a heroic rearguard action, Malaysia coach Norizan Bakar, who kicked off with six recognised defenders in his starting 11, will have been delighted with his charges' overall resilience, although possibly
less pleased with the time and space afforded to Vahid Hashemian whose close range ninth minute shot from Teymourian's cross was superbly turned onto his bar and away to safety by Malaysia goalkeeper Azizon Kadir.
Three minutes later and Azizon was in the thick of things again as he dived to deflect a fiercely struck Reza Enayati shot onto his right hand post.
Despite their early dominance, Iran failed to find a way through the home side's massed defence and nearly conceded themselves when Aidil Radzak burst through a static Iranian backline, but the youngster's shot was deflected safely into the arms of Iran stopper Hassan Roudbarian.
The breakthrough came after 29 minutes. Ali Karimi's well timed run into the Malaysian box was checked illegally by Hussain Khaironissam according to referee Muhsen Basma. Javad Nekounam, scorer of Iran's equaliser against China in a 2-2 draw, tucked away the resulting penalty with ease.
The Malaysian woodwork was rattled again only moments later when Rahman Rezaei's delicate headed cross was thumped against the bar by Hashemian.
Malaysia came close to equalising after 44 minutes when Shukor Adan's thrusting run down the right flank saw him find space to fire in a shot that brought the best out of Roudbarian to send the home team into the break in a buoyant mood.
With Malaysia continuing to fight for every blade of the Bukit Jalil National Stadium turf, Iran had to wait until the 58th minute for their first serious attempt of the second half, Teymourian's effort being tipped away acrobatically by Azizon.
Substitute Rassoul Khatibi duly headed horribly wide from only five yards before he was booked for attempting to win a penalty with a dramatic dive.
A long-range pile driver from Hashemian was then gathered well by Azizon as Malaysian bodies continued to thwart Iran, a terrific team spirit that was epitomised in the 71st minute as Hamzani Omar reacted brilliantly to deny Khatibi a clear attempt on goal.
Javad Kazemian's lobbed effort on 75 minutes looped agonisingly wide before Iran's superior possession was turned into something more tangible three minutes later when Teymourian converted a Mehdi Mahdavikia pass with unerring accuracy to beat Azizon at his near post.
Karimi's last gasp shot was turned onto the bar by Azizon, the save proved to be the last meaningful action of a game which Iran may have won but from which Malaysia emerged with plaudits galore.