AFC - Islamic Republic of Iran were held scoreless for 75 minutes before coming home with a wet sail to register a 4-0 win over Nepal in Friday’s later match.
Nepal showed great spirit to keep the hosts at bay until deep into the second half, but Mohammadmahdi Ahmadi’s drought-breaking header sparked an Iranian onslaught which produced four goals in 15 minutes.
Iran’s win keeps them on track to reach Uzbekistan 2020, with Team Melli able to seal their place by avoiding defeat against UAE on Sunday.
The hosts were well on top in the opening stages, but Nepal defended in numbers, showing composure and discipline to keep clear cut chances to a minimum in a scoreless first half.
Despite a frustrating opening 45 minutes, the Iranian goal threat showed little sign of subsiding, with Nepal surviving a number of close calls from headed efforts as well as a goalmouth scramble following a dangerous cross from Alireza Asadabadi.
With 15 minutes remaining, Nepal could sense a famous result, but the plot twisted sharply when Ahmadi was left alone to head in a corner kick from just five yards, and it became a double blow when Iranian skipper Ahmad Reza Jalali slammed in a second, also following a corner kick, in the 84th minute.
The floodgates were now open, particularly when Alireza Monazami rounded Nepal goalkeeper Bishal Sunar to ease home Iran’s third just two minutes later, with Aria Barzegar putting the icing on the cake with another goal in the 90th minute.
The 11 group winners and four best runners-up will join hosts Uzbekistan in the 2020 Finals.
Tajikistan have already qualified as Group C winners and should Uzbekistan finish either top of Group F of the Qualifiers or are among the best four second-placed teams, the fifth best runners-up will qualify.
Group A of the Qualifiers - featuring Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Kuwait and Pakistan - will be played on November 22-30 in Muscat, Oman.
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