By SB Nation
Javad Nekounam fired 10-man Iran to victory over South Korea in Asian World Cup qualifying.
Iran have played themselves level with South Korea in Group A, and they’ve done it in the most roundabout way possible. Masoud Shojaei picked up a red card in the second half, and at that point, a 0-0 draw seemed like it would have been a positive result for the hosts. Instead, they went on to grab a stunning 1-0 victory.
South Korea opted to start with attacking stars Lee Chung-Young and Son Heung-Min on the bench, which might have been a mistake, but they weren’t able to create a goal once they came on. A win in Tehran was always going to be a tough task, but the Koreans will be unhappy with their lack of clear chances in the match, especially since they played 35 minutes against 10 men.
Shojaei’s sending off came in the 56th minute for a second yellow card, and he’s fortunate that he’ll only miss one game, not three. The tackle that drew the second yellow was late, reckless and from behind on Oh Beom-Seok, and very easily could have drawn a straight red card from the referee. Carlos Quieroz reacted to the sending off by making a conservative substitution, bringing on defender Hossein Mahini for attacking midfielder Mohammad Nouri.
The shocking goal came in the 73rd minute, by way of captain Javad Nekounam. He finished off Iran’s move with a quality half-volley from the edge of the penalty area, and the stadium absolutely erupted. The closing minutes were tense, with Quieroz earning himself a trip to the stands for arguing with the officials, but Iran were able to hold on for the victory.
Iran and South Korea are now tied atop Group A in AFC with seven points apiece. They’re both favorites to advance to the World Cup, given the chaos in the places below them.
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