x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Samba Boys too strong for battling foes

Brazil 3 - Iran 0: an early goal from Daniel Alves and two more from Pato and Nilma allowed Brazil to overcome a dogged Iran.

ABU DHABI // Robinho struggled to put the best of his sublime skills on view and his Milan teammate Alexandre Pato clearly looked a bit under the weather as Brazil played Iran last night. 

A particularly muggy night denied them the opportunity to put on the kind of show expected from men of their reputation in the friendly against Iran. An early goal from Daniel Alves, plus two more from Pato and Nilmar, however, allowed Brazil to overcome a dogged Iran at a noisy Zayed Sports City, packed by more than 20,000 fans, without ever pressing hard on the accelerator.

With Iran posing a few threats at the start, Alves turned the tide in the 14th minute with the opening goal from a free-kick. Pato then struck the goal that gave them a cushion nine minutes into the second hour, at a time when Iran were threatening to equalise, and Nilmar completed the scoreline in added time. Iran looked the more exciting of the sides as the game started to a loud roar from the galleries. In the fifth minute, Mohammed Gholami brought the Iranian fans to their feet by putting the ball into the net, but the strike was disallowed for offside. A minute later, Jalal Hosseini had the Iran supporters on the edge of their seats as his volley whizzed over the bar.

Barcelona's Alves, however, broke Iranian hearts in the 14th minute with a booming free-kick that deflected in off the left post. It was not Tehran's Azadi Stadium, which can often boast 90,000 fans for club games. But a big majority of the fans at the Zayed Sports City were Iranians and they were virtually silent after the opening goal. Robinho came alive after that and almost added the second in the 20th minute from inside a crowded box, but was denied by the left post. Pato had the chance to put the rebound in, but he blasted it wide.

Iran regrouped after that setback as the fans got behind their team and Javad Nekounam almost got the equaliser in the 49th minute when he flicked the ball past goalkeeper Victor, but Ramires came to Brazil's rescue, clearing off the line. At the other end, Pato's misfiring continued as he twice blasted the ball wide inside the first 10 minutes of the second session. The bustling sharpshooter, however, found the net in the 69th minute, beating an Iran offside trap to fire home Elias' deft flick.

Brazil's second came just came seconds after an exhausted Robinho, with just one attempt on goal, was replaced by Nilmar, who could have been on the scoresheet if not for an acrobatic save by Mahdi Rahmati in the 86th minute. The Villarreal ace, however,did find the net in the second minute of injury time, with a tap in from Pato's cross. Iran made a flurry of changes as well and the loudest cheer in the stadium erupted when Karim Bagheri took the field for his final appearance on the international stage. After the final whistle, the decorated veteran was given a shoulder ride by his teammates and standing ovation by the fans

arizvi@thenational.ae.