Doha, 15 January 2024 - In a thrilling encounter at Education City Stadium, Iran showcased their football prowess with a 4-1 victory against Palestine in group stage clash.
The victory means Iran top the group ahead of the United Arab Emirates - who beat Hong Kong, China 3-1 earlier in the day - on goal difference.
Before kick-off, the players and fans in attendance stood united for a minute of silence, in compassion with the ongoing conflict in Palestine.
When the action got underway, three-time champions Iran took the lead after only two minutes of play when Mehdi Ghayedi’s cross from the left found Saman Ghoddos who controlled the ball with his first touch before setting up Karim Ansarifard for a well-placed shot into the bottom corner.
The Iranians looked dangerous every time they ventured forward and doubled their lead in the 12th minute when Ghoddos' curling free-kick found an unmarked Shojae Khalilzadeh at the far post to sweep past a stranded Rami Hamada.
It could have been three in the 22nd minute as the alert Alireza Jahanbakhsh stole the ball off Michael Termanini at the edge of the Palestine box before sending his square pass towards Mehdi Taremi but an alert Hamada was quickly off his line to thwart the danger.
The third goal, however, came seven minutes before the break when a quick interchange of passes on the right flank released Jahanbakhsh who used Taremi’s run as a diversion to release the ball to the onrushing Ghayedi to finish.
However, Palestine ended the first half with a glimmer of hope, a stunning Tamer Seyam header in the sixth minute of added time giving Alireza Beiranvand no chance.
Their hopes, however, were dashed when AS Roma forward Sardar Azmoun - who came on at the start of the second half - needed only 10 minutes to make his presence felt, knocking home a loose ball from close range after good work by Sadegh Moharrami on the right.
Palestine tried to find a way back but Iran continued to dictate the pace and it could have gotten worse for the West Asian side when centre-back Mohammed Saleh was initially shown a red card for a foul on Azmoun but upon a VAR review, the card was rescinded with a yellow card shown instead.
Iran will look to cement their top spot when they take on Hong Kong, China on Friday while Palestine will face UAE a day earlier.