Iran through to 2019 Asian Cup last 16 after 2-0 win over Vietnam
Sardar Azmoun scores in each half to take his tally to three for the tournament
A Sardar Azmoun double against Vietnam ensured Iran clinched their place in the last 16 of the Asian Cup on Saturday.
The three-time continental champions were rarely troubled by their South-East Asian rivals in there Group D clash at Al Nahyan Stadium.
Iran, looking to end a 43-year title drought since last winning Asian football’s most coveted prize, could have scored four or five but for some poor finishing in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a pity our performance didn’t produce a couple more goals,” Iran manager Carlos Queiroz told reporters. “But winning is the best medicine in football. To win two games and score seven goals - I have to praise my players because I am very demanding.”
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Saman Ghoddos and Mehdi Taremi went close for before Azmoun rose to head home a Ghoddos cross after 38 minutes.
The Rubin Kazan striker then scored his third goal in two matches on 69 minutes, turning neatly on the edge of the area after neatly gathering a Mahdi Torabi pass before drilling a left-foot shot low into the corner. “He’s a finisher,” said Queroz, the Portuguese now in his eighth year as Iran manager.
Nguyen Quang Hai curled a late effort narrowly off target, but it mattered little to Iran as they held on to register a record ninth successive Asian Cup group stage victory to further reinforce their title credentials.
Iran join Jordan, China and South Korea in reaching the knockout rounds with a game to spare, while Azmoun’s three strikes makes him the tournament’s top scorer.
Iran’s final Group D game is against Iraq on Wednesday while Vietnam face Yemen.
Updated: January 12, 2019 09:48 PM