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Sardar double sends Iran into Asian Cup knockouts

AFP  |  Abu Dhabi 

struck twice as sank 2-0 on Saturday to reach the last 16 of the Asian and set a new group-stage win record.

Iran, looking to end a 43-year title drought since last winning Asian football's most coveted prize, could have scored four or five but for some poor finishing in

"It's a pity our performance didn't produce a couple more goals," told reporters.

"But winning is the best medicine in To win two games and score seven goals -- I have to praise my players because I am very demanding."

and went close for Asia's top-ranked team before Azmoun rose to head home a Ghoddos cross after 38 minutes.

The Rubin forward lashed in his third goal of the tournament from the edge of the box 20 minutes from time to give a ninth successive first-round victory dating back to 2007.

Co-favourites with to lift the Asian Cup, Iran crushed war-torn 5-0 in their opening Group D game.

They were indebted to for a courageous save from Nguyen Cong Phuong but were barely ruffled by the southeast Asian champions.

"We just need to relax more," said Queiroz. "In the second half our anxiety to score a third goal led to some bad passes.

"The combinations are there," added the former Real Madrid and boss, whose team face bitter rivals in their final group fixture.

"But that final touch will come. Now we must think, feel, eat, drink, do everything to be focused on " Queiroz singled out Azmoun, who came out of international retirement for the Asian

"He's a finisher," said the Portuguese, now in his eighth year as Iran

"We have high hopes for him for this competition. But the way the team is contributing around him, and our movement in the last third, are very interesting."

While Queiroz comes into the Asian after almost steering Iran to knockout stage last year, lamented the gulf in class between Team Melli and his Golden Dragons.

"Iran are ranked 29th in the world, we're 100th," shrugged the South Korean, whose team suffered a last-minute 3-2 defeat by in their opening game.

"They were just too strong. It will take time for us to compete at the top level, but is a young team with a bright future." Iraq were playing later on Saturday.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, January 12 2019. 20:46 IST