Iran advance as champions recover
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Three-time champions Iran booked their place in the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011, with a 1-0 victory over Korea DPR today. In the other Group D match, defending champions Iraq bounced back from their opening defeat with a dramatic 1-0 win over the United Arab Emirates.

The match
Iran 1-0 Korea DPR, Qatar Sports Club Stadium, Doha
Ansari Fard 63
In what turned out to be an odd clash, Iran’s attack-minded approach finally paid dividends midway through the second half. The deadlock was broken shortly after the hour mark, when Karim Ansari Fard latched onto a Pejman Nouri cross from the left to score against one of the meanest defence on the continent.

For their part, Korea DPR could not find a breakthrough with star striker Jong Tae Se often left isolated up front. Captain Hong Yong Jo’s last-gasp effort rattled the crossbar as the North Koreans failed to score again.

The surprise
United Arab Emirates 0–1 Iraq, Al Rayyan Stadium, Al Rayyan
Walid Abbas (o.g.) 90+2
Both sides needed all three points to keep alive their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals, and the showdown in Al Rayyan promised to be a feast of attacking football. The United Arab Emirates had the first real chance, with Hamdan Al Kamali hitting the post with a backward header from a corner by Subait Khater, who then tested Mohammed Kassid with a powerful free-kick.

The Iraqis fought back, however, as Nashat Akram tried his luck from distance before smashing a point-blank header against the crossbar. Qusay Muneer’s audacious effort from 30 yards was also denied by the woodwork.

Ismail Al Hammadi then saw his shot rattle the crossbar with Kassid beaten, as the UAE increased the pressure on the Iraq defence after the hour mark. But it was the defending champions who had the last laugh, as captain Younis Mahmoud’s low cross from the right was turned into his own goal by Walid Abbas deep into added time.

The star
Karim Ansari Fard, Iran
Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi’s decision to start 20-year-old striker Karim Ansari Fard was vindicated by the clinical finish from the No10, whose four goals helped Team Melli finish fourth at the 2010 Asian Games in November.

The stat
50%
- Iran managed to produce only two shots on target throughout the match against Korea DPR, but Ansari Fard successfully converted one of them into the only goal of the game.

What they said
“Our group was the ‘group of death’ and I still believe it's the most difficult group in the tournament. To achieve this result two games in a row, I’m very proud of my players. Iran are capable of playing much better football and we’ll show that in the coming games,” Afshin Ghotbi, Iran coach

“The players did well according to the instructions but the weakness of our team was the set-pieces and the throw-ins, from which we conceded the goal. The next match is very critical for us to reach the knockout stage but we’ll try our best to win the game so we can proceed to the next round,” Jo Tong Sop, Korea DPR coach