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Iran shatters North Korea dream as Japan defeats Bahrain

By Kambakhsh Khalaji

Tehran, March 30, IRNA-Iran struck two in Kim Il-Sung Stadium in Pyongyang to hand North Korea its third consecutive loss and Mohamed Ahmed Salmeen's own goal helped the home team Japan leapfrog Bahrain in 2006 World Cup Asian zone Group 2 qualifiers Wednesday.

North Korea defender Han Sol-Chol headed home a curling set piece from Hamburg right winger Mehdi Mahdavikia in the 33rd minute.

Midfielder Javad Nekounam rifled home a superb pass from Asian Player of the Year Ali Karimi on 81 minutes to make it 2-0.

The angry Koreans rushed to Syrian referee Mohamed Kousa in the closing minutes for a controversial penalty.

The game was interrupted for six minutes as Kousa escaped from infuriated Korean players and bottles thrown by the fans.

Assisted by officials, Kousa managed to restore order and handed a red card to North Korean defender Nam Song-Chol.

The Syrian referee and his two linesmen were forced to stay on the pitch for almost 25 minutes as the crowd threw more bottles and some chairs.

Iran stands top in the table with seven points from three games and North Korea sticks to the bottom with no points.

In February, Iran was held by Bahrain in Manama to a goalless draw and beat Japan 2-1 in Tehran last week.

In Tokyo's Saitama Stadium, Salmeen made a defending blunder, sending the ball into his own net on 72 minutes.

The 1-0 victory helped Japan leapfrog Bahrain, taking the second place on six points while Bahrain was demoted to the third slot with the previous four-point asset.

The top two teams in Group 2 will automatically book berths in 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

The third-place sides in the two Asian groups will play off against the fourth-placed team in the North and Central American and Caribbean zone.

... Payvand News - 3/30/05 ... --

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