Paroi (Malaysia) (AFP) – Asian heavyweights Iran splashed to a 0-0 draw against Syria in World Cup qualifying Tuesday on a swampy Malaysian pitch that will raise questions over why the match was allowed to proceed.
Neither side mounted much sustained pressure in the dreary contest as their keepers easily picked off what few serious shots they encountered due to the slow pace of play.
The result leaves Iran still atop Group A but ruing a failed chance to take three points against war-torn Syria, who are unable to host games due to the bloody conflict back home.
The Syrian side have adopted Malaysia as a temporary home ground, but Tuesday’s match exposed the pitfalls of the situation.
The sub-par pitch in a town outside Kuala Lumpur soaked up a heavy pre-game tropical downpour like a sponge, swallowing passes and making players look as if they were moving at half-speed.
The Iranians dominated play, however, and Saeid Ezatolahi nearly put them ahead with a header in front of goal in the 34th minute that leaked just past the right post.
The match settled into a war of attrition, with neither squad able to put much pace into their shots due to the quicksand footing.
With the pitch drying a little by the late second half the bigger Iranians, their white jerseys now brown, upped the pressure with a series of attacks.
But a missed 89th-minute header by Alirez Jahanbakhsh on a dangerous cross from Milad Mohammadi — right in front of goal with the keeper beaten — summed up the night for Iran.
The result continues the semi-charmed run of the homeless Syrians, who have lost twice but also have beaten China and drawn with South Korea.
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