China inflict blow on Iran
© AFP

Gao Lin tapped home a rebound just before the break as China defeated Iran in a friendly prior to the Middle-Eastern side's crucial 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier against Korea DPR on Saturday.

Gao converted two minutes before half-time after Rong Hao's 30-yard left-footed free-kick was saved by Iran goalkeeper Seyed Rahmati. The win at Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Centre Stadium also provided a boost for China's newly-appointed coach Gao Hongbo, who recorded his first victory after taking over the national squad early last month.

Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi fielded a strong side including the likes of Mehdi Mahdavikia and Vahid Hashemian as he went in search of a morale-boosting win before the qualifier in Pyongyang. In stark contrast, China coach Gao made a number of changes, choosing nine players who did not feature in the friendly against Germany three days ago.

Still it was they who created most of the chances, and could have added another when 17 minutes from time He Yang headed Charlton Athletic midfielder Zheng Zhi's free-kick onto the crossbar. Arash Borhani hit the bar late on but it was too little too late for a side who face an uphill task to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals as they are now four points adrift of second-placed Saudi Arabia in the last round of Asian qualifiers.

China coach Gao Hongbo said: "The result can't prove that China are a strong side, but we did gain experience from the game and we learned how to deal with west Asian teams." Iran will search for a win in Korea DPR, who are four points ahead of them in the group, to keep their qualification hopes alive.