Teheran – Singapore got its Asian Cup Group E qualifying campaign off to a poor start when it crashed 0-6 to three-time champion Iran at the Azadi Stadium in Teheran this evening.
Despite having almost every player fully fit for the opening match, save for defender Noh Rahman, the Lions were still mauled by an Iranian side which had opted not to recall Europe-based players Javad Nekounam, Masoud Shojaei (both from Osasuna), Vahid Hashemian (Vfl Bochum), Mehdi Mahdavikia (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Andranik Teymourian (Fulham FC) for the match.
Buoyed by its good form in the recent 2010 World Cup qualifiers, which saw the Lions reaching the third round of qualification for the first time in its history, Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic had told the Teheran Times that he was confident that the Lions would get a good result against Iran.
“Iran is a physically very strong and compact team and have very fast attacking individuals,” he said. “We’ll have to keep them out of our penalty box and cut their passing game.”
For 38 minutes, it looked as though Singapore got its tactics right against Iran. But then defender Ismail Yunus earned himself a red card in the 39th minute for a two-footed lunge and that was when the disastrous collapse began.
It took Iran only three minutes to capitalize on the one-man advantage. Majid Gholamnejad scored in the 42nd minute to deal Singapore a psychological blow just before the break.
Experienced midfielder Karim Bagheri bulged the net again in the 52nd minute and two minutes later, it was all over for Singapore as Gholamreza Rezaei made it 3-0.
But world no. 43 Iran, who had defeated China 3-1 in a friendly last Friday, chose not to take its foot off the accelerator and Maziar Zareh scored in the 79th minute to increase Iran’s tally to four.
Mohammad Nouri then scored twice in two minutes, in the 82nd and 8rd minute, to complete the rout.
Singapore’s next game is against Jordan which was due to take on Thailand in the other Group E encounter toay.
Only the top two teams will reach the 2011 Asian Cup finals in Qatar.