Iran edged Calabar's battle of champions, beating African toppers Gambia 2-0 in the first match from Group C of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009. The Africans looked in fine fettle early on, but some rough play, general indiscipline and a howler by goalkeeper Ousman Darboe allowed the Asian champions to shade the result.
The match began with the Gambians trotting into their rhythm, captain and top scorer from African qualifying, Ebrima Bojang twice going close early. As the first period wore on, though, indiscipline got the better of the lively African champions. Three bookings in the opening 25 minutes were prelude to Buba Sama's sending off in the 33rd minute, his intentional handball bringing a second yellow and an early bath.
Iran, reigning Asian champions produced very few chances of note in the first half, only outstanding captain Payam Sadeghian's free-kick forced Gambia goalkeeper Ousman Darboe into a comfortable save. Even so, it was the Iranians - with playmaker Afshin Esmaeil pulling the strings, who went into the changing room a goal to the good. A calamitous error by Darboe, perhaps losing concentration after his light workload in the previous minutes, fluffed a routine free-kick out from the back and the ball went directly to the grateful Sadeghian, who curled a simple shot into an unguarded net with just a minute to go in the half.
Iran began to turn the screws from the start of the second period, taking full advantage of their numerical superiority in the sweltering heat. The Gambians, in response, pressed forward valiantly and even created chances through Bojang and Dawda Ceesay, but Iran's organisation won the day. They even grabbed a late goal to put the result beyond doubt, Kaveh Rezaei slamming low and hard from the edge of the box with minutes left to make it 2-0. The Iranians, temporarily top of Group A, take on Colombia on 28 October while Gambia - who finished with nine men after substitute Dembah Janneh saw red - will be looking to rebound when they meet the Netherlands that same day.