Iran defeated India 4-0 thanks to a brace by captain Ehsan Hafi Safi and another two from Azmoun and Alireza, as the Iranians outclassed their visitors from the first whistle. India had goalkeeper Gurpreet to thank for the scoreline as without him India would be staring at a tennis score.
The visitors struggled from the first minute with goalkeeper Gurpreet being called into action as early as the third minute. Another couple of saves followed within the next fifteen minutes.
In the 18th minute, Sandesh brought down Mehdi Taremi, but the referee waved play on, despite Iranian protests and India escaped with another close call. At the other end, Holicharan evaded the Iran defence but keeper Mazaheri charged down to the edge of the box to cramp space. Holicharan still managed to execute a lob, but the ball bounced harmlessly over the crossbar, as he barged into the Iranian goalie. That was the only close chance India had in the match.
Iran continued to gun down the Indian defence with Bakhsh and Azmoun drawing excellent saves off Indian keeper Gurpreet. The young keeper was the saving grace for India for the best part of the half. But his clean sheet wasn’t to last.
In the 30th minute, after A.Jahan Bakhsh’s corner was not cleared well, the Iranian attacker won the ball in the box albeit not cleanly. Bikash Jairu went for the ball but instead brought Jahan Bakhsh down with an untidy challenge, resulting in a collision between the two. The referee straight away pointed to the spot, and captain Haji Safi stepped up to take the resulting penalty. Gurpreet, who had had an excellent game until then, dived to his right, but the Iranian captain placed it in the opposite corner with precision putting the home side a goal up.
The foul left Bikash injured and he was subsequently taken off for Harmanjot Singh Khabra in the 36th minute.
Ezatolahi and Azmoun tested Gurpreet again with venomous shots from in and around the area but the 24-year old was up to the task. Before the first half wound up, India managed to muster another chance in injury time, but Udanta Singh’s glancing header fell just short of Jeje who was racing towards goal and India went to the break a goal down.
The second half followed the pattern of the first half with Gurpreet standing tall between the Indian sticks. Having said that Iran were guilty of not converting their chances. In the 48th minute, Azmoun fired wide after running through on goal. But the 21-year old soon made amends for the miss in the 61st minute, as he bundled in a corner, and for once Gurpreet was not at his best. Coming out of his line, the Indian goalkeeper couldn’t reach the ball, and with the defence at sixes and sevens, Azmoun fired the ball home to double the lead.
Only five minutes later, Iran scored another from the spot to go 3-0 up and kill the tie and add to India’s humiliation. Narayan Das, in his attempt to head the ball out of the box, messed up as the ball hit his hand, and the referee pointed to the spot. Captain Hafi Saji stepped up to convert the third goal for Iran.
In the 78th minute, Alireza added insult to injury with a brilliant effort sending the ball into the far corner of the net making it 4-0 as Gurpreet could only watch.
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