Iran needed the brilliance of overseas strikers Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi to claim an emphatic victory over Bahrain in their World Cup qualification campaign.
Azmoun scored a second-half double in seven minutes before Taremi secured a 3-0 triumph with 11 minutes left from normal time as Iran overtook their host for the second spot in Group C of the Asian qualifiers.
Just when the duo seemed to be clueless and lacking the cutting edge for the better part of the first 54 minutes in Manama, they produced the much-needed quality, delivered throughout the season in the outfit of Zenit St. Petersburg and Porto, as Iran regained momentum in their bid to book a third consecutive place in the World Cup finals.
Azmoun finished off a couple of pinpoint through balls by Taremi with two cool touches to put Iran in the driving seat before Porto striker kept his nerve in the area to put the ball behind Bahraini keeper Sayed Mohammed Abbas.
“We knew that we would win the match with even a single goal, that’s why we controlled the game in the first half and then preformed our game plan after the break and won it,” Man of the Match Taremi said after the game.
“The whole team – from the keeper to frontline – fought for the victory to make our people happy and proud. There are still two games left and we’re desperately waiting for the Iraq fixture to see who eventually win the group,” added Taremi, who together with Azmoun shared 30 goals in the Portuguese and Russian leagues this past season.
Despite the victory, Iran will need to beat Cambodia, whom they thrashed by 14 goals in the reverse fixture, on Friday and then Iraq on June 15 to guarantee a place in the final round of qualifiers.
Iraq holds a two point lead over Iran heading into the final two rounds in the group.
Eight group winners will be joined by four best runners-up in the next round.