Qualifiers - Group C: IR Iran, Iraq impress
Tehran: Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq enjoyed opening day wins in Group C of the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 Qualifiers after beating Turkmenistan and Yemen respectively on Friday.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN 3-1 TURKMENISTAN
A first half own-goal proved to be costly for Turkmenistan, as Iran turned on the power in the second half at the Azadi Stadium.
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The match between the two Central Asian teams was equal at best in the opening minutes and a goalless stalemate was set in place until the 35th minute when a defensive error from Shazada Bashimov gave the Iranians the lead.
Iran's senior team is Asia's top ranked team, and the U23 side were aiming to emulate their prowess, and in the second half, they doubled their lead through captain Omid Nor Afkan's effort on 54 minutes.
A comeback for Turkmenistan was not very far off when Bagtyyar Gurgenov found the back of the net to reduce their deficit.
However, as the match went into added time, it was Iran who came out on top with substitute Reza Jabireh scoring the final goal of the night to secure a good start to their qualifying campaign.
IRAQ 5-0 YEMEN
Champions in 2013, Iraq were on form against Yemen, taking the lead in the 16th minute through Amir Fouad, before Hussein Jabbar Al Majidi doubled their advantage in the 35th minute.
Yemen showed signs of bouncing back but were heavily punished a minute before the break when a penalty was awarded to Iraq for a foul in the box, and Fouad made no mistake to make it 3-0.
In an attempt to make a comeback, Yemen head coach Sami Hasan Al Hadi sent on Nasser Al Gahwashi and Ahmed Maher at the start the second half, but they suffered a further setback when another penalty was given to Iraq in the 65th minute.
Murad Mohammed Subeh neatly converted the spot-kick, before scoring another in open play in the 79th minute to end Yemen's hopes.
Yemen will look to bounce back against Islamic Republic of Iran, while Iraq take on Turkmenistan on Sunday.
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