Sardar Azmoun brace carries Iran past Vietnam


Sardar Azmoun struck twice as Iran dispatched Vietnam 2-0 on Saturday to reach the last 16 of the Asian Cup and set a new group-stage win record.

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

Saman Ghoddos and Mehdi Taremi went close for Carlos Queiroz’s side before Azmoun rose to head home a Ghoddos cross after 38 minutes.

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

Iran was indebted to goalkeeper Alireza Safar Beiranvand for a brave save from Nguyen Cong Phuong early in the second half but by and large was barely ruffled by the southeast Asian champion.

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