Azmoun is at the double for strong Iran
Iran assured themselves of a spot in the Asian Cup 2019’s round of 16 on Saturday, as an ultimately convincing 2-0 win over Vietnam also saw them underline their position at the top of Group D.
At a wonderfully atmospheric Al Nahyan Stadium, two goals from Sardar Azmoun ensured the Iranians made it six points from six – an impressive start to a campaign which has now seen the three-time champions of Asia guarantee their progress to the knockout phase along with Iraq who beat Yemen in the group’s later game.
With one round of matches still to come, Vietnam must beat Yemen to stand any chance of sealing their place in the next round as one of the best third-place finishers.
With Iran on top and Vietnam unable to launch a cohesive attack of their own, the almost inevitable breakthrough came on 38 minutes, Azmoun rising highest to head home a pinpoint Ghoddos cross and send his side into the half-time break holding a crucial, if slender, lead.
Iran, clearly intent on scoring a second, continued to press, and their patience was duly rewarded on 68 minutes, Azmoun neatly gathering a Mahdi Torabi pass and firing past Van Lam to extend his side’s advantage and register his third goal of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Iraq sealed a place in the knockouts after cruising to a 3-0 win over Yemen in a Group D tie at Sharjah Stadium on Saturday.
They took the lead in the 11th minute when 18-year-old Mohanad Ali Kadhim beat the Yemen defence before unleashing a shot from outside the box into the bottom right corner.
Yemen goalkeeper Saoud Al Sowadi soon found himself under incessant pressure and conceded the second goal in the 19th minute when Bashar Resan Bonyan’s strike from the top of the box bounced off the right post before settling in the net.
2015 semi-finalists Iraq ended proceedings on a high note as Alaa Abbas score with a left-footed shot.
Iran are set to complete their group stage fixtures against Iraq – with pole position up for grabs – next Wednesday in Dubai. Vietnam are scheduled to face Yemen in Al Ain on the same day.
Unstoppable: Sardar Azmoun (l).