Saturday 02 September, 2006
Hashemian's late strike salvages draw for Iran
by Martin Reza Babry
PFDC - SEOUL, Thanks to a defensive blunder in the 93rd minute and Hannover striker Vahid Hashemian's perfect reaction, Iran was able to book a 1-1 draw in Asian Cup qualification in South Korea on Saturday.
The dominant, however, rather harmless South Korean's had most of the game in first half, but apart from a wide shot after 43 minutes, the hosts failed to trouble Iran's well organized defense.
Team Melli, being lined up in a 5-4-1 formation showed an extremely defensive approach to the match, however, had the best chance of the first interval when Ali Karimi, inscened by the hard working lone striker Hashemian, created himself space by a quick move, but didn't manage to bring his leftfooted effort from very promising position on target (26').
Iran was then punished for their passive display, when Seol Ki-hyun, undisturbed by his marker Mahmoud Fekri, was able to head a freekick into the far corner in inury time of first half.
Amir Ghalenoei's boys then showed a slightly better offensive performance after the break, especially after the former Esteghlal coach brought Farhad Majidi for Mehrzad Madanchi. Despite the Al Nasr forward failed to impress after coming on, the more offensive 3-5-2 obviously improved Iran's offense.
However, the homeside, who still had the bigger share of the game, countered by displaying their strongest ten minutes of the game, creating and fortunately wasting four good chances between minute 67 and minute 77. Ebrahim Mirzapour also knew to convince in Iran's goal today.
Iran then looked like marking the equalizer a couple of times, but first a Karimi header from close range sailed over the bar (80'), then Rahman Rezaei flew inches past Mohammad Nosrati's extension to a Mehdi Mahdavikia freekick (82') and finally Karimi wasted the biggest Iranian chance of the game when he, all alone in front of the almost open goal failed to hit Hashemian's good serving (83').
Finally, in the dying seconds of the match, when everything seemed set for a Korean celebration, Iran managed to equalize.
The today disappointing Mahdavikia sent a long pass forward, but Hashemian, marked by two defenders and facing the outstorming Korean goalkeeper, couldn't get to the ball. However, Hashemian didn't give up, chased defender Kim Sang-sik down, stole the ball from him at the edge of the area and lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper, who was chanceless against the beautiful effort of Iran's new number one goalgetter.
Considering Iran's late goal, it surely was a lucky draw for Team Melli. Yet, the dominant hosts simply had failed to secure the three points by scoring a second goal. Therefore the point was not totally undeserved for the Iranians, who never gave up and also showed good defensive organization.
Iran will take on Syria on Wednesday, after an odyssee to Damascus from Seoul, travelling over Beijing and Tehran.
South Korea - Iran 1-1 (1-0)
Asian Cup Qualifier, Seoul
Referee: Christopher Reid (AUS)
1-0 Seol (45' 1)
1-1 Hashemian (90' 3)
Iran's lineup: Mirzapour - Nosrati, Fekri, Rezaei - Mahdavikia, Nikbakht (68' Kaebi) - Teymourian (90' Akbarpour), Nekounam, Madanchi (55' Majidi) - Karimi - Hashemian