AL AIN, United Arab Emirates, June 7 (Reuters) - Asian heavyweights Iran clinched a vital 1-0 win against the United Arab Emirates on Saturday to breathe life into their stuttering 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Ferydoon Zandi grabbed the decisive goal after eight minutes
to move the struggling Iranians ahead of the UAE at the top of
the Group 5 standings.
The three-times Asian champions drew their first three
qualifiers, two of which were goalless.
The victory was the first competitive win for Iran since
last year's Asian Cup in a year fraught with problems on and off
Ali Daei's side, who have reached the finals three times,
have six points, one ahead of the UAE and Syria, who play bottom
side Kuwait on Sunday.
Coach Ali Daei believes the victory will silence the doubters questioning his side's chances of qualifying for the World Cup.
'Now I think the worst is over for us but we still need to win the next two games to keep this momentum going,' he said. 'It was a pressure game for the players because they needed to win. The early goal really helped settle them down and it was a good feeling at the end.
'We were not lucky enough in the earlier games and this win just about proves that we can play better and win matches.
'It was a good, close match. The UAE played well but we created more scoring opportunities and converted one of them.'
Despite the defeat, UAE coach Bruno Metsu was far from disheartened and insisted the group was still wide open.
'We had our chances both, in Teheran and here but we couldn't score,' he said.
'The team has played consistently well ever since we lost to Vietnam in the Asian Cup opener last year. If we can continue playing the same way, I am sure we can qualify.
'We must understand Iran have qualified for the World Cup finals four times and always have been a strong team to play against. Considering that, I think we have played very well to lose 1-0.'