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Iran 1 Syria 0

Amman, Juune 2, 2000 -- Before the final of the inaugural West Asian Championship, in the Jordanian capital Amman, Syria's Yugoslav manager Bozidar Vukotic had warned that his weakened side's only chance was to score first. They didn't, and as Vukotic predicted Iran had few problems holding on to the lead given to them by Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh in the 36th minute.

Sohrab's low free kick, which seemed to catch the Syrian keeper Mohammad Bairouty by surprise, was Iran's only reward for a first half in which they created all the clear-cut chances.

In the 21st minute Ali Karimi had shown exactly why he is likely to be the next Iranian to move to a European club as he jinked past three defenders before firing a right-footed shot which Bairouty gratefully pushed over the bar. And five minutes later Iran appeared unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty when Bashar Srour appeared to handle a delightful chipped pass by Behrouz Rahbarifar, which belied his role as a central defender.

At the other end Syria's lively attack occasionally exposed Iran's captain, the Sturm Graz defender Mehrdad Minavand but with the exception of Mohammad Khalef's low cross which Parviz Brouman did well to grab before Mohammad Yousef pounced, Iran's central defenders were rarely stretched.

In the second half Iran, whose side was made up largely of Olympic team players, were happy to take control and let the pace of the game drop. Committing few numbers in attack their chances were rarer although Rasoul Pak Khatabi should have done better in the 50th after tournament MVP Ali Karimi skipped past two tackles and squared to him. So should Javad Nekounam 10 minutes later as he ended Rasoul's cross-field run by shooting over.

The Syrians rarely threatened an equaliser, although substitute Maher Saed did hit the top of the cross bar with a speculative shot from an acute angle. Then in the dying seconds a golden chance slipped under the boot of Hassan Aloebrahim and Syria were condemned to their third 1-0 defeat in the four encounters between the two sides in the space of just two months.


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