(Persia Digest) - Iran produced a real statement of intent on Thursday as they marched into the last four of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 with a commanding 3-0 quarter-final win over China PR.
First-half goals from Mehdi Taremi and Sardar Azmoun put Team Melli in control of proceedings at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, before Karim Ansarifard added a third right at the death to cap off a fairly comfortable last-eight outing for their opponents.
While the result spells the end of the road for the Chinese, Iran remain in with a chance of claiming their first Asian Cup crown since 1976 and will now meet Japan in a mouthwatering semi-final tie next Monday.
And, based on the dominant manner in which the Iranians claimed the victory against China, they might even be heading into that tie at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium as favourites.
It did not take them long to assert their authority on Thursday and they threatened as early as the fourth minute, when Alireza Jahanbakhsh played a teasing first-time ball across the face of goal that was just too far for Azmoun to reach.
Two minutes later, China had an opening of their own with Hao Junmin breaking through down the right and playing in a cross that would have spelt a certain goal for Wu Lei, only for Ramin Rezaeian to halt the threat with an amazing recovery challenge.
Azmoun threatened again in the 10th minute when he was left unmarked at the back post at a corner and would have opened the scoring with a free header if not for Zheng Zhi being alert to the danger and clearing just before the line, but there was to be no denying Iran eight minutes after.
There looked to be no real danger when the Iranian defence played a long ball over the top but Feng Xiaoting’s hesitation saw him recklessly lose possession to Azmoun, who did well to unselfishly square a pass to hand Taremi with a simple finish.
The Al Gharafa star should have doubled his and his side’s tally in the 26th minute from a similar position when he was left with a sitter after being picked out by Hossein Kanaanizadegan’s flick-on from Ashkan Dejagah’s freekick, only to fire wide with the entire goal gaping.
By now, China’s 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi had seen enough and was motivated to make two substitutions even before the half-hour mark, but it still seemed only a matter of time before the Iranians’ supremacy reaped a second goal.
That duly arrived a minute after the half-hour mark and – this time – it was Liu Yiming who was the culprit despite being the favourite to make an interception, allowing Azmoun to nip in and win possession and casually take the ball past Yan before slotting into the unguarded net.
With a two-goal advantage now in their grasp, Team Melli were never in danger relinquishing control of the contest in the second half, and even had further chances to add to their tally which would have certainly but the result beyond doubt, although they were never really threatened by a lacklusture Chinese outfit.
And, in the first minute of injury-time, they finally added the gloss on an emphatic victory after profiting from another China error; Shi Ke’s poor touch handing possession straight to Taremi, who immediately threaded a ball through for substitute Ansarifard to latch onto and finish into the bottom corner.
CHINA PR: Yan Junling, Liu Yiming, Feng Xiaoting (Xiao Zhi 28’), Shi Ke, Zhang Chengdong, Hao Junmin, Zheng Zhi, Wu Xi (Zhao Xuri 25’), Liu Yang, Wu Lei (Yu Dabao 75’), Gao Lin.
IRAN: Alireza Beiranvand, Ramin Rezaeian, Morteza Pouraliganji, Hossein Kanaanizadegan, Milad Mohammadi, Omid Ebrahimi, Ehsan Hajsafi, Ashkan Dejagah (Rouzbeh Cheshmi 76’), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Saman Ghoddos 68’), Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun (Karim Ansarifard 86’).
Source: Fox Sports
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