AFC - The Islamic Republic of Iran emerged as the early leaders of Group A in the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers thanks to a 2-1 win over hosts Kyrgyz Republic on Wednesday.
With Ali Gholizadeh pulling the strings early on, Iran looked the more dangerous, however it was to be Kyrgyz Republic who were to take the lead, Roman Levchenko firing home on 11 minutes much to the delight of the home support.
Iran were not to be outdone though, and they hit back just three minutes later courtesy of Reza Shekari’s neat finish.
The Iranian’s continued to press and were duly rewarded when Gholizadeh put his side ahead in the 42nd minute, before disaster struck for the hosts moments before the break when Askarbek Saliev was dismissed after picking up a second yellow card.
With chances few and far between in the second period, Iran maintained their composure to secure a vital opening win and go top of a three-team which also includes Oman.
Iran head coach Amir Hossein Peiravani
“The first match is always the hardest. I would like to thank my team. They all did their very best get the positive result. During the first half, we scored twice and then concentrated on maintaining our advantage after the break. Also, my respect for the national team of the Kyrgyz Republic. The national team of Kyrgyz Republic is a good team with a good coach. I hope that in the future we will hear a lot of good news about Kyrgyz football. "
Kyrgyz Republic head coach Valeri Berezovskii
"As expected, the guys slightly burned out and could not handle the pressure. All our plans were scrapped at the end of the first half. The lack of international experience affected the result of the game. Nevertheless, we showed incredible commitment. Now we will forget the result of this match and prepare for the game with Oman. We know that we are in a very difficult situation, but we will fight to the end."
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