Azmoun strike downs Taegeuk Warriors

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Iran continue to lead the way in World Cup qualifying Group A after securing a narrow 1-0 victory over South Korea at the Azadi Stadium on Tuesday.

Sardar Azmoun’s first-half goal was all that separated the two teams in Tehran as Team Melli maintained their unbeaten start in the group.

The hosts were on the front foot from the start and thought they had taken the lead in the early stages when Alireza Jahanbakhsh swept home from eight yards out, but the goal was ruled out for an offside against Morteza Pouraliganji in the build-up.

Jahanbakhsh threatened again for Carlos Queiroz’s side with a shot that flew over the crossbar following a swift counter-attack, and the AZ winger should have scored soon afterwards when he connected with Ehsan Hajsafi’s free-kick, but sent his volley into the turf and over the target from just six yards out.

But their efforts were rewarded on 25 minutes as Azmoun steered his first-time shot into the bottom left corner of the net from Ramin Rezaeian’s pass to give Iran a deserved lead.

The visitors struggled to pose a threat in the final third and Team Melli took their one-goal advantage into the break.

Jahanbakhsh looked to extend their lead early in the second half with a strike from the edge of the area that went over the bar, before an unmarked Saeid Ezatolahi missed the target with a header from a long throw-in.

Visiting keeper Kim Seung-gyu kept the Taegeuk Warriors in the contest with a fine save to deny Jahanbakhsh from 18 yards out in the closing stages as the one goal proved enough for the hosts.