Sep 11, 2019, 12:45 AM
Journalist ID: 2078
News Code: 83471428
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Iran beats Hong Kong in World Cup qualifier

Tehran, Sept 11, IRNA - Iran defeated Hong Kong 2-0 on Tuesday in their first World Cup qualifying away match to get high morale for their second competition against Cambodia in October.  

Goals from Sardar Azmoun and Karim Ansarifard gave heavyweights Iran victory in their first competitive game under ex-Belgium boss Marc Wilmots.

Azmoun had a bullet header saved and fired a shot just wide before he opened the scoring on 23 minutes, rifling a half-volley into the bottom corner as he again found himself unmarked in the box.

The Zenit St. Petersburg striker then fed Ansarifard for an acrobatic overhead that cannoned off the crossbar, before Brighton midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh came close when he curled a free kick wide on the stroke of half-time.

Hong Kong occasionally threatened on the break but the game was beyond them when Ansarifard knocked in Iran's second goal nine minutes after the break, cashing in on Jahanbakhsh's strong run down the right.

"It was a normal match for us - I only worry about what's happening on the pitch, that's my job," shrugged Wilmots, when asked about the charged atmosphere at Hong Kong Stadium.

There were fears the match would not go ahead after the Iranian Football Federation appealed for the match to be played on neutral ground because of the ongoing social unrest in Hong Kong.

Marc Wilmots, the former Belgium manager, is the Iran's National Team’s new coach who replaced Carlos Queiroz in June. The Portuguese left after a disappointing AFC Asian Cup in the UAE. They unexpectedly lost 3-0 to Japan in the semi-finals in a tournament many had tipped them to win.

With this win qualifying for Qatar 2022 from a group with Hong Kong, Iraq, Cambodia and Bahrain should not prove too problematic for Asia’s No 1 team.

Mixu Paatelainen’s Hong Kong side had their work cut out against a team ranked 23rd in the world, 116 places above them.

Iran have won four of the five matches between the teams, and have a 100 percent record over Hong Kong in competitive games.

“The main issue is the system that we improved in today’s match. We play better now in attacks and will try to do better in defense,” added Wilmots.

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