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Azmoun, Taremi fire IR Iran to victory in Tashkent

Tashkent: Goals from Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi proved decisive as Islamic Republic of Iran beat Uzbekistan 2-1 in an international friendly at Pakhtakor Stadium on Thursday.

In a long-awaited first outing under new coach Dragan Skočić, Team Melli’s star attacking duo each found the back of the net – Azmoun with a 25-yard rocket just before half-time, Taremi with a second half penalty – before Eldor Shomurodov pulled a goal back for the hosts in the 53rd minute.

Uzbekistan will meet United Arab Emirates in another friendly in Dubai on Monday, while Iran will face Mali in Antalya, Turkey the following day.

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With access to their overseas-based players for the first time in the best part of a year, both Skočić, and Uzbekistan boss Vadim Arbamov named strong starting line-ups, but it was a local, Bunyodkor’s Sanjar Kodirkulov, who came closest to opening the scoring when his volley rattled the woodwork just before the half-hour mark.

It was Azmoun, whoever, who made the biggest impact in the first-half, punishing some hesitant Uzbek defending to rifle the Iranians into the lead with a terrific strike from outside the penalty area in the 44th minute.

The visitors went into the interval in front, and they duly doubled their advantage in the 51st minute, with FC Porto’s Taremi easing a spot-kick past Eldor Suyunov, having being felled by the Uzbek goalkeeper when through on goal moments earlier

Uzbekistan pulled a goal back through their own star striker Shomurodov just two minutes later; the 25-year-old celebrating his signing with Italian Serie A outfit Genoa by expertly placing the ball into the bottom corner of the net on the turn after being supplied by Kodirkulov.

Both Abramov and Skočić made a raft of changes as the match wore on, the most notable arrival being Igor Golban, the former Russian U-21 international who made his first appearance in the senior Uzbek shirt at the age of 30.

The hosts almost equalised when Rustam Ashurmatov’s speculative free-kick was touched onto the crossbar by Iranian goalkeeper Payam Niazmand, while Suyunov produced a fine reflex save to deny Taremi at the other end, but neither side was able to add to the scoring as Team Melli made a winning start to the Skočić era.

Photos: Uzbekistan Football Association

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