Abu Dhabi: Mehdi Taremi scored twice as Iran crushed Yemen 5-0 in the war-torn country’s Asian Cup debut on Monday to send a message to their title rivals.
Looking to end a 43-year title drought since last winning Asian football’s most coveted prize, Iran ruthlessly dispatched the Group D minnows in Abu Dhabi.
Joint favourites with South Korea, Iran took just 12 minutes to take the lead as Taremi finished clinically from close range after a shot from Sardar Azmoun was fumbled by Yemen keeper Saud Alsowadi.
Captain Ashkan Dejagah doubled his side’s lead in the 23rd minute with a low free kick which cannoned in off the post and the hapless Alsowadi before Taremi powered home a header moments later.
Azmoun tapped in a fourth goal seven minutes into the second half, by which time Iran were playing some champagne football, pulling off extravagant flicks and back-heels that left Yemen’s players chasing shadows.
When substitute Saman Ghoddos volleyed home Iran’s fifth from the edge of the box after 78 minutes the Yemen players looked physically shattered.
Only the woodwork prevented Mahdi Torabi adding a spectacular sixth in injury time.
Fierce rivals Iraq take on Vietnam in the other Group D game on Tuesday.