Iran's Alireza Jahanbakhsh (right) vies for the ball with UAE's Mahmoud Khamees during their 2022 Qatar World Cup Asian Qualifiers match at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai on Thursday. AFP/ AFP)
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
Mehdi Taremi scored the lone goal of the match as Iran extended their winning streak with a 1-0 victory against the UAE in their 2022 World Cup qualifier match at the Zabeel Stadium on Thursday.
Taremi broke the deadlock in the 70th minute to give Iran 1-0 lead. He tapped the ball from outside the box to the centre of the goal off a pass from Sardar Azmoun.
UAE goalkeeper Ali Khasief had come down to the centre of the pitch and the ball rolled into an unguarded goal off a gentle caress by Taremi.
After the goal, a charged-up Iran became more aggressive as the UAE were left to do catching-up job to restore the parity.
With the victory, Iran maintained their stranglehold on the top of the table in Group A. They have notched up three straight victories from as many games and have nine points in their kitty.
This was the 10th meeting between the two sides and the UAE once again failed to break the jinx. Iran have won eight and two ended in a draw. They have won four away matches and three at home against the UAE.
The UAE are at the third spot in their group with two points after two draws and one loss in the third and the final round of the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers.
The UAE were held by Syria and Lebanon in their first two matches of the third round. 12 teams have been divided into two groups of six each for the third round. The UAE have been placed in Group A along with Iran, South Korea, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Two teams from each group will directly qualify for the mega event. The third placed teams from each group will play in a play-off and the winner will advance to the continental qualifier.
The UAE had suffered a major injury blow ahead of the important clash against Iran as they had to play without captain Walid Abbas and midfielder Ali Salmeen, who were ruled out of the game due to niggling injuries.
Earlier, the UAE were playing a firebrand football and attacking through their strikers Ali Mabkhout, Fabio Lima and Khalil Ibrahim right from the beginning.
Ibrahim squandered a chance to open the scoring for the UAE in the fifth minute. When his shot was deflected and went wide to the left of the post.
Iran also missed a chance to break the deadlock as a header by Sardar Azmoun went way up high in the air. Bandar Al Hababi of the UAE got a yellow card in the 20th minute for a dangerous tackle. UAE’s Ibrahim again failed to put an Abdullah Hamad pass into the net with a wayward header in the 25th minute.
Khasief made a brilliant save in the 28th minute as he parried away a shot by Taremi to keep Iran at bay. Alireza Jahanbaksh also spurned a chance as he hit the ball over the top of the net off pass from Taremi.
Two minutes later again, Iran came closed to scoring but Azmoun attempt was blocked by the an agile Khasief brilliantly.
Few minutes later, a Majed Hassan’s right-footed shot from outside the box missed the post by miles. Both the teams were trying hard to break the deadlock but failed to penetrate the water-tight defence of each other as the half-time score remained 0-0.
There were quite a few substitutions made by the either side with the onset second-half. The UAE’s Khalil Ibrahim was replaced by Mohammed Juma while Ali Goli Zadeh substituted Noorafkan in the 46th minute.
Abdullah Al Menhali was substituted by Sebastián Tagliabue in the 78th minute later while brought in Ehsan Hajsafi for Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
Azmoun of Iran was handed a red card for an injury-threatening tackle to Mabkhout but within a minute the decision was rolled back strangely to the astonishment of the UAE players and fans.
UAE’s talismanic striker Mabkhout, who had moved level with Pele on 77 when he scored a goal against Syria, failed to weave the same magic which he is famous for. He is currently sitting on the third spot behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among the active players, who have scored 111 and 79 international goals respectively.
But Ronaldo and Messi have played 180 and 153 matches respectively while Mabkhout scored those goals in just 94 matches. Ronaldo is all-time leading scorer after breaking the Iran’s Ali Daei’s record of 109 goals.
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