Iran coach Amir Ghalenoei wants to finish first in his group and stay in Malaysia.
|Iran midfielder Javad Nekounam, right, and Seyed
Jalal Hosseini celebrate after a penalty [AFP]
Iran topped Group C of the Asian Cup with a 2-0 win over joint-hosts Malaysia at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, meaning the three-time champions remain in Kuala Lumpur for an enticing quarter-final clash with Korea Republic.
A first-half penalty to Iran midfielder Javad Nekounam and a second-half strike to Andranik Teymourian were enough to see the West Asians through to the second round against a highly defensive home side.
Malaysia, who had conceded 10 goals in their first two matches of the tournament were determined not to be embarrassed again, as they lined up in 5-4-1 formation to stifle Iran’s attacking play.
Coach Norizan Bakar’s tactics made for a rather drab match with Iran trying time after time to penetrate the wall of yellow and black defenders, while Malaysia rarely got out of their own half in possession of the ball.
Bakar announced after the match that it had been his final assignment as national coach, as he had been sacked by the Football Association of Malaysia prior to the game.
A tale of two coaches
“Coaching is about hiring and sacking,” an emotional Bakar told reporters.
“It’s all about results. This is my responsibility. These things happen in football and I have to accept them.”
In contrast, Amir Ghalenoei, Iran coach, was very pleased with his side’s performance which allowed them to top the group and avoid an early trip to Jakarta.
“It was a very good game, although we missed many chances,” Ghalenoei said.
“The group was very tough, and we are very happy to top the group and stay in Malaysia for our next match.
“Our forwards didn’t score, but our attacking system worked and we have scored six goals in three matches.”
Iran striker Vahid Hashemian had a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the seventh minute when he was left unmarked seven metres out and in front of goal, but chose to take a touch first and then hit his shot straight at Malaysian keeper Azizon Abdul Kadir.
|An Iranian football fan enjoys
the moment [AFP]
Iran opened the scoring in the 28th minute when Muhamad Kaironnisam, Malaysia captain, bumped Ali Karimi in the box, with the new Qatar SC signing having no hesitation in crumbling to the ground.
Syrian referee Muhsen Basma pointed to the spot before Nekounam, Iran’s Osasuna midfielder, made no mistake with the spot kick, putting his side one goal up.
Late in the half a cheeky chip from the right wing by Malay midfielder Shukor Adan saw Iran keeper Hassan Rodbarian forced into action for the first time in the match when he had to leap backwards to get a fully stretched arm to the shot which was on target to drop under the bar.
The halftime stats told the story, with Iran having eight corners to Malaysia’s none, and ten shots to the home side’s three.
Both sides got a little testy early in the second half with tempers simmering and set to boil over after some rash challenges and niggle off the ball, and when Bolton midfielder Teymourian hit a powerful shot towards goal in the 58th minute Azizon had to make another flying save.
With the match now reduced to a pseudo half-pitch affair due to Malaysia’s defensive tactics it was really only a matter of time before Iran had a second, and good work by substitute Javad Kazemeyan on the right set Teymourian up just inside the box to seal the match in the 77th minute.
Stats tell the story
Malaysia bow out of the tournament as the only team not to register a point, having conceded 12 goals and scored just one.
“Iran are a good team and we didn’t make it easy for them to win today,” added Bakar.
“The players woke up and showed their true character in terms of fighting spirit and urgency tonight.
“I am a teacher as well, and when the team stops learning, I have to stop teaching,” the outgoing coach added.
Iran now take on Korea Republic in their quarter-final on Sunday.