January 15, 2011

DOHA, Qatar (AP) -- Iran clinched a place in the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup by beating North Korea 1-0 on Saturday, thanks to a second-half goal from Karim Ansari.

The striker converted a cross from midfielder Pejman Nouri in the 62nd minute.

"It's a fantastic achievement to qualify for the quarterfinals in our group that was a group of death in this tournament,'' Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi said. "I am very proud of our players.''

North Korea dominated possession for most of the first half and kept the attack-minded Iran on the defensive, with its best chance coming from striker Jong Tae Se's free kick in the 16th. But Iran regrouped and had two chances to take the lead before Ansari netted.

North Korea captain Hong Yong Jo nearly equalized in injury time but hit the crossbar.

Iran tops Group D with six points after two games. North Korea and the United Arab Emirates each have one point and Iraq, the defending champion, is at zero.

North Korea held the United Arab Emirates to a 0-0 draw in its opening Group D match.

"We are sorry to lose chances to score in the past,'' North Korea coach Jo Tong Sop. "The next match (against Iraq) is very critical and we will do our best to win and advance to the next round.''

Iran defeated Iraq 2-1 in its opener, and Ghotbi said the team is "on a journey to winning the Asian Cup title.''

"When coming to this tournament, we wanted to win the chance to advance early in the group stage to give the team enough time to recover for the quarterfinal,'' Ghotbi said.



Iran: Mehdi Rahmati, Khosro Heideri, Jalal Hosseini, Hadi Aghili, Ehsan Haji Safi, Mohammad Nosrati (Gholam Reza Rezai, 61), Javad Nekounam, Pejman Nouri, Iman Mobali (Mohammed Nouri, 45), Karim Ansari (Mohammed Gholami), Mohammed Reza Khalatbari.

North Korea: Ri Myong Guk, Cha Jong Hyok, Ri Jun Il, Pak Nam Chol, Ri Kwang Chon, Jon Kwang Ik, Mun In Guk (Ryang Yong Gi, 59), An Yong Hak, Kim Kuk Jin, Jong Tae Se (Pak Chol Min, 64), Hong Yong Jo.

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