KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 (Reuters) - Substitute Javad Kazemian struck in the 77th minute to give Iran a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan in their Asian Cup Group C match on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old rescued a largely disappointing Iran side,
who struggled to find their rhythm against the combative
Uzbekistan, with main striker Maksim Shatskikh suspended,
took the lead on 15 minutes through an own goal by Iran
defender Rahman Rezaei.
Iran levelled in the 55th minute when Seyed Jalal Hosseini
scored from a corner before Kazemian emerged as the hero.
Iran coach Amir Ghalenoei said his team's superior fitness
was the key.
'When I took over this team, my first priority was to
improve fitness levels,' he told reporters. 'After 60 minutes,
that was when we really started to dominate Uzbekistan because
our players were fit and able to compete better.
'Uzbekistan prepared well and it was difficult getting used
to the heat in Kuala Lumpur but I am satisfied to have a win in
our first game.'
The victory put Iran in second place in Group C behind
China, who beat hosts Malaysia 5-1 on Tuesday. The top two
teams advance to the quarter-finals.
With both teams playing cautiously, Uzbekistan took an
unlikely lead. Captain Server Djeparov sent a high ball forward
trying to find striker Ulugbek Bakaev.
Rezaei, under pressure from Bakaev, tried to head back to
goalkeeper Hassan Rodbarian but only succeed in finding the
back of his own net.
Iran came out more determined in the second half and
equalised after captain Mehdi Mahdavikia made his first foray
The skipper sent in a testing corner from the left and
defender Hosseini rose high to head past Uzbek goalkeeper Pavel
Kazemian settled it for Iran when he received Andranik
Teymourian's through ball on the edge of the box and drilled it
Tempers frayed on the sidelines towards the end of the
match with Ghalenoei sent to stands by Kuwaiti referee Saad Al
Fadhli for apparently throwing a water bottle at the fourth
official, though the coach said his anger was directed at one
of his players.