Swashbuckling Iran too strong for Bahrain


Powerhouse Iran handed a warning to its AFC Asian Cup rivals as it brushed past Bahrain 2-0 at Melbourne's Rectangular Stadium on Sunday night.

The three-rime champion, which has been beset by off-field problems, was full of swagger and purpose as it began its campaign in some style in a gripping Group C clash.

Iran broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time thanks to a stupendous strike from Ehsan Hajsaf who controlled the ball as is broke to him on the edge of the area from a corner before thrashing his half-volley high into the net past the despairing dive of keeper Sayed Abbass.

Having had two earlier efforts ruled out for offside Carlos Queiroz's side was worth its lead as it pushed forward at every opportunity under the prompting of chief instigator Ashkan Dejagah.

And Team Melli killed off the contest in the 71st minute when Masoud Shojael connected with Andranik Teymouriana's corner, his slightly miscued right foot shot eluding Abbass who appeared slow to react.

Queiroz said after a shaky start, his team returned to its game plan.

"We started to put the ball on the grass and we created more opportunities," he said. "After the first ten minutes I think we controlled the game ... I think we deserved to win."

Beaten manager Marjan Eid said he was proud of his team's effort.

"The Iran team is very strong ... we lost three points but my players did a good job," he said.

Iran showed plenty of power down the flanks, guile in midfield and defensive solidity and, barring a number of dubious offside calls, could have won by more than two goals.

But that was the only real negative for Quieroz, as his team moved into second position in Group C behind United Arab Emirates, which thrashed Qatar 4-1 in the earlier match.

Iran's supporters, by far the majority in the 17,712 crowd, had been raucously cheering their team for at least half an hour before the game began but it was Bahrain who made the brighter start.

Jaycee John struck an audacious volley just wide, while Sayed Shubbar should have done better with his free header in the 16th minute, following Sami Al Husaini's clever chip over Iran's defence.

But after Bahrain's early flurry, Iran began to create some opportunities of their own, with Ashkan Dejagah failing to convert a one-on-one chance in the 20th minute.

Two minutes later Reza Ghoochannejhad dinked the ball to a marginally offside Hajsafi, who picked out the top corner and was consequently booked, while Morteza Pouraliganji volleyed over the bar from a free-kick.

Iran also had the ball in the net on the half-hour mark but were again denied by the offside flag and, after dominating the rest of the first period, Queiroz's side deservedly hit the front just before the break when Hajsafi volleyed home.

The Persians could have doubled their lead immediately after the restart with Ghoochannejhad bursting onto Hajsafi's pass before firing wide.

The miss was moot, however, as the Charlton Athletic striker would have been denied a goal due to an incorrectly raised offside flag.

But apart from Ghoochannejhad's chance, the opening 15 minutes of the second half were rather tame, before John did well to bring down a long ball and then cracked a shot on target that Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi could only parry.

Another poor offside call thwarted Iran in the 63rd minute as Ghoochannejhad tapped in from Shojaei's cut-back.

But there was no problem eight minutes later when Shojaei volleyed Andranik Teymourian's corner inside the far post to cap off a fine performance by Iran.

Source SBS