Iran Hold China

Goals from Ferydoon Zandi and Javad Nekounam pulled Iran up from behind to snatch a point against China in their Group C’s 2007 Asian Cup match at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Sunday evening.

Iran's Mehdi Mahdavikia (white) fights for the ball with China's Mao Jianqing

Shao Jiayi fired China in front with a sixth-minute free-kick and Mao Jianqing doubled their lead with a well-made effort in the 33rd minute.

But Ferydoon Zandi reduced the deficit from a set-piece on the stroke of half time before Nekounam headed Iran level 17 minutes from time, keeping the two teams level at the top of Group C with four points each.

China came out strongly and took the lead six minutes into the first half when Iran’s goalkeeper Roudbarian turned the ball into his own net from Shao Jiayi’s free kick.

Their second came just two minutes later and it was Mao Jianqing, who controlled skipper Zheng Zhi’s right wing cross on his chest from inside the box before delicately firing a volley past keeper Roudbarian.

However, Iran got a lifeline right at the end of the half when they won a free-kick on the right of the Chinese area. Mahdavikia laid the ball off to Zandi, who lashed a fierce shot past Li Leilei into the top right corner of the net.

Iran assistant coach Nasser Ebrahimi, who took charge with Amir Ghalenoei suspended, made two changes at the break, bringing on Eman Mobali and Javad Kazemian for the disappointing Ali Karimi and Hossein Kaebi.

The start of the second half was a scrappy affair as the Iranians tried to impose themselves on the Chinese, who were content to sit back and absorb the pressure.

For all their effort, the Iranians made little headway early on with their best opportunities falling to Mobali, who dragged an effort wide from 20 metres in the 55th minute, and Hashemian, whose drive from the edge of the box was deflected over by Li Weifeng six minutes later.

The Iranians virtually camped in the Chinese half and both Reza Enayati and Nekounam headed wide before the equaliser finally arrived in the 73rd minute when Nekounam rose majestically above the Chinese defence to level the score.

China had offered little to that point in the second half but they enjoyed the better of  the closing minutes and could have stolen a winner in the 78th minute when Zhu Ting crossed from the left flank for Zhao Xuri, who lashed a first time volley narrowly wide.

At the end though, a draw was a fair reflection of a spirited encounter dominated by the Chinese in the first half and by the Iranians after the break.

Group C

By Hoang Uy

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