Persianfootball - PODGORICA, Two goals by Iranian gem Sardar Azmoun gave Iran a 2-1 away victory in an entertaining friendly match against Montenegro on Sunday.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz decided to rest usual starters Milad Mohammadi, Mehdi Taremi and Alireza Jahanbakhsh and instead lined up debutant Saeid Aghaei, Karim Ansarifard and Mehdi Torabi.
Azmoun goal countered by Jovetic
Iran had a good start and went in front after just 10 minutes, when Ehsan Hajsafi sent a long ball down the right, where Ramin Rezaeian headed the ball to Mehdi Torabi, who penetrated the box and played the ball sharply to the penalty spot, where Sardar Azmoun finished off with ease.
However; the homeside increased the pressure after falling behind and, benefitting from an unusal sloppiness and some insecurities from Alireza Beiranvand, was able to create some high class scoring opportunities.
Had Beiranvand denied most of them with great reflexes before, he was chanceless after 37 minutes after he had misjudged and poorly cleared a cross, which was picked up inside Iran’s box and played square to Montenegro superstar Stevan Jovetic, who scored with a well placed shot.
While Montenegro almost took the lead shortly afterwards but failed to get their effort on target, Iran came even closer shortly before the break, when Azmoun brilliantly headed an Ashkan Dejagah freekick past the goalkeeper, but not past the inner side of the goalpost.
The final exclamation mark of period one came by Saeid Ezatollahi, who troubled Montenegro’s goalkeeper with a thunderous freekick from far out, only to see it tipped over the bar.
Bitter for Iran was the loss of influential midfielder Ehsan Hajsafi due to injury, who was replaced by Croatian based Ali Karimi. It remains to be seen if the Sepahan man will recover in time for the vital Uzbekistan clash in eight days.
Both coaches made some changes at halftime, with Montengro, among others, adding veteran striker Mirko Vucinic to their side, whereas Queiroz brought in Milad Mohammadi and Reza Ghoochannejhad. Both in unusual position through, as Mohammadi played as left winger and “Gucci” replacing Dejagah as the central man behind the sole striker.
Nevertheless Iran were the better side in the opening minutes of the second half and Azmoun should have scored his second of the day when he found himself one on one with the keeper, but failed to get past him.
A few minutes later Ghoochannejhad should have done better after Azmoun had stolen the ball from the defense, but the Heerenveen targetman curled the ball past the woodwork.
But right at the hourmark Iran made it 2-1 in similar style like the first. Karimi played a long pass to the right, Rezaeian again headed the ball to center, but this time to the far post where an unmarked Azmoun beautifully vollied the ball into the net.
Just four minutes later the double goalscorer left the field for another debutant, left winger Ehsan Pahlevan.
Montenegro pushed forward but barely created danger for the meanwhile improved Beiranvand, except from minute 69, when a well taken shot from just outside the area went a few inches wide.
Ten minutes later things seemed to turn into the homeside’s favour, when the so far very good referee called a a good challenge on the ball from Pouraliganji as a foul and sent the defender off with his second yellow of the day.
But Team Melli withheld the attacking waves of Montenegro, who’s final effort from outside the box was paried by Beiranvand in injury time.
Iran can now travel back to Tehran with even more confidence, where they will host Uzbekistan in eight days. A win against the White Wolves would automatically qualify group leaders Iran for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia with two games in hand.
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Montenegro – Iran 1-2 (1-1)
Friendly match, Podgorica
0-1 Sardar Azmoun (10′ / assist by Mehdi Torabi)
1-1 Stevan Jovetic (32′)
1-2 Sardar Azmoun (60′ / Ramin Rezaeian)
Red card: Pouraliganji (79′ / second yellow / foul)
Iran: Beiranvand – Rezaeian, Montazeri, Pouraliganji, Aghaei – Ezatollahi (73′ Pourghaz), Hajsafi (38′ Karimi) – Torabi, Dejagah (46′ Ghoochannejhad), Ansarifard (46′ Mohammadi) – Azmoun (64′ Pahlevan)