DOHA: Mehdi Ghayedi’s second goal of the Asian Cup was the difference as Iran overcame Hong Kong China 1-0 in Group C at Khalifa International Stadium.

With six points to their name, Team Melli join hosts Qatar, Australia and Iraq in the Round of 16 with a game to spare, while Hong Kong’s hopes of progressing will depend on being able to beat Palestine on the final day of the group, as well as other results going their way.

The first chance of the game fell Hong Kong’s way when Matt Orr took advantage of a defensive mistake to collect the ball on the edge of the area and send a left-footed strike that was saved by goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

The East Asian side thought they had taken the lead in the 17th minute when a misplaced pass by Roozbeh Cheshmi saw the ball find its way to Everton Camargo who rounded Beiranvand but skied his finish well over the crossbar.

Team Melli waited until the 23rd minute to get their first sight of goal, but when they did, they were denied by the upright when Ramin Rezaeian advanced down the right and delivered a cross at the far post for Shahriyar Moghanlou whose diving header hit the post and went behind for a goal-kick.

Two minutes later, IR Iran took the lead when Milad Mohammedi fed Ghayedi on the left wing and the Ittihad Kalba forward expertly curled it into the bottom far corner for his second goal of the campaign in a similar fashion to his strike against Palestine days earlier.

The second half started with intensity from both sides, but with play centered around the middle of the pitch and clear-cut chances few and far between.

Hong Kong, China goalkeeper Yapp Hung Fai showed his quality in making a flying save to push away a well-executed curled free-kick from Rezaeian which looked destined for the top corner.

Rezaeian found himself face-to-face with the opposition goalkeeper with just seven minutes to go after being set-up by a perfectly-weighted Saman Ghoddos pass, but the right-back failed to direct his shot goalwards.

Iran end their group stage at Education City Stadium against the UAE on Tuesday, while Hong Kong take on Palestine at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in the other 18:00 kick-off on the same day.

######