A SUBLIME piece of skill from Sardar Azmoun booked Iran’s passage into the Asian Cup football quarter-finals and condemned Gulf Cup champions Qatar to an early exit.Sardar’s slick turn and clinical shot in the 52nd minute at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Thursday earned Iran a 1-0 win, their second victory from as many games.
It leaves them second in their group on goal difference behind the United Arab Emirates, who earlier in the day defeated Bahrain 2-1 in Canberra, and will now meet Iran in Brisbane next Monday.
Qatar, who were coming off a 4-1 opening game loss to the UAE, had a decent share of possession, but struggled to create good chances.
Russian-based Sardar’s goal delighted the vast majority of the 22,672 fans in attendance in Sydney, with Iran’s passionate and colourful fans ramping up the noise level of support to the max each time their team got close to Qatar’s penalty area.
Iran one of the pre-tournament favourites, were more consistently dangerous than Qatar and were good value for the win, which they achieved with a second straight clean sheet.
Qatar, who entered the tournament on a long unbeaten run, lacked penetration and didn’t get a single shot on target in the first half.
Just before half-time, Morteza Pouraliganji’s flying header from an Iran corner was headed off the line by Ahmed Elsayed, while Sardar had a firm fourth minute header saved by Qatar goalkeeper Qasem Burhan.