After years of struggle against Iran, South Korea was desperate for a taste of victory when the two rival nations met in Tehran on Tuesday night. Uli Stielike’s game plan was to open up the Iranian defence with speed, width and quality passing through the flanks, taking advantage of the tremendous club form of Bayer Leverkusen attacker Son Heung-min.
South Korea broke forward as early as 10 minutes in, when Lee Chung-yong’s cross met Son’s head, but it was cleared off the line by a scrambling Iranian defence. The South Koreans were largely able to control early parts of the game and Son again threatened 22 minutes into the first half with a mid-range shot that could have made headlines if Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi hadn’t been ready to deny the chance.
Soon after, Team Melli found openings for their fast counterattacks, with Javad Nekounam headed over the crossbar and Reza Ghoochannejhad forcing quick reflexes from Kim Jin-hyun only moments later after finding a narrow opening inside the crowded penalty area.
After escaping some scares in front of their own goal, South Korea again created a chance through Son in the 40th minute, but his powerful drive from inside the box was blocked again by Haghighi.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz brought on Soroushi Rafiei and Sardar Azmoun to replace Ghoochannejhad and Khosro Heydari at the hour mark in an attempt to change the offensive dynamics of his side. These substitutions proved to be effective for Queiroz, with 19-year-old Azmoun pouncing to find the back of the net after Nekounam’s free-kick ricocheted off both posts eight minutes from full time.
Stielike replaced Koo Ja-cheol for Lekhwiya’s Nam Tae-hee, but little time was left for any significant change in affairs. Carlos Queiroz’s men sealed their third consecutive 1-0 win over their opponents, continuing South Korea’s jinx against their fellow Asian Cup participants.