AFC - Korea Republic were unable to break down 10-man Islamic Republic of Iran in Group A of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 qualifiers on Thursday as a 0-0 draw with the group winners leaves the table firmly in the balance ahead of the final round of fixtures next week.
In a frantic opening 20 minutes at Seoul World Cup Stadium, the hosts should have taken the lead on 18 minutes but Jang Hyun-soo headed wide from just a few yards out, before Iran’s Reza Ghoochannejhad shot over from a similar distance soon after.
But six minutes after the interval, the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Saeid Ezatolahi saw red for making contact with Kim Min-jae in an off-the-ball incident to hand Korea Republic the momentum.
The home side then took control of the game but Iran’s defence remained resolute and Kwon Chang-hoon curled his free-kick just over with 12 minutes remaining as Shin Tae-yong’s team desperately sought the all-important goal.
Veteran striker Lee Dong-gook was brought on to a standing ovation in the dying minutes but the Taeguk Warriors were unable to find the breakthrough as Iran maintained their record of having yet to concede in qualifying.
The draw leaves Korea Republic two points above both Uzbekistan and Syria after the Uzbeks lost 1-0 to China and Syria defeated Qatar 3-1 in simultaneous kick-offs with the Koreans now needing a win in Tashkent to guarantee their progression to a ninth successive FIFA World Cup.