Bengaluru: Asian powerhouse Iran turned in a brilliant second-half performance to overwhelm India 3-0 in the second round of the FIFA World Cup qualifying competition here on Tuesday.
Goals by Iranian heartthrob Sardar Azmoun (29th minute), Andranik Teymourian (47th) and Mehdi Taromi (51st) helped Iran to chalk up their second win in three outings while India slid to their third consecutive defeat following similar 1-2 losses to Oman and Guam.
India's Sunil Chettri fights Andranik Teymourian of Iran vie for the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier match at Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday. Iran won the match by 3-0. Pic/PTI
The fitter, faster and more skillful Iranians were far too better drilled than the Indians who after an enthusiastic first-half display that saw them deny the visitors for nearly 30 minutes, faded away on resumption of play.
It turned out to be a gross mismatch between two teams that provided a study in contrast in preparation and team work with the Iranians showing whey they qualified four times for the World Cup.
Barring the goal, the first half was fairly evenly contested though the Indians were under more pressure with the visitors peppering their goal with shots from every conceivable angle and asking questions of goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
From the home perspective, much of the credit should go to the defenders who did well to repeatedly thwart the Iranian forays for close to half-hour until the pressure told on them.
The Indian deep defence allowed Azmoun to head the ball home off a brilliant, long free-kick by Andranik Teymourian following a foul on Haji Saji by Eugeneson Lyngdoh.
At the other end, the Indians tried hard to breach a tight Iranian defence and barely got a look-in and the star goalkeeper Ali Reza Haghihi was hardly tested.
The second-half turned out to be a watershed as Iran struck two stunning goals in a four-minute spell that totally demoralised the Indians who committed two unpardonable mistakes.
The hosts first allowed Taromi to head back an outgoing ball to Andranik to blast home and then Taromi was let free to score off a pass from Azmoun.
Thereafter, the Iranians toyed with their rivals, while virtually flexing their muscles. The Indians proved unequal to the task of matching the highly physical game of the visitors for whom the outing proved to be a breeze.
India did show some spirit in the last quarter when they forced a couple of corners, but to no avail as the Iranians, quicker on the ball, comfortably repelled the attacks to come out worthy winners.
Indian coach Stephen Constantine made as many as 11 changes to the side that was held goalless by Nepal in a friendly match recently, while his counterpart Carlos Queiroz fielded, barring two substitutions, virtually an unchanged combination that had beaten Guam 6-0 in their previous qualification game.