TEHRAN, Oct. 11 (Mehr News Agency) - Prodigal Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi hit two to give Iran a 2-0 away win over Taiwan in Group B and a berth in the AFC Asian Cup 2007 finals Wednesday.
Iran's manager Amir Qal'e-Noii fielded a full-strength squad in Taipei's Municipal Stadium, but his complacent men played a spiritless football.
Striker Rassul Khatibi cleared three Taiwanese markers before leaving Karimi alone with the empty net to find from close range after 10 minutes.
Karimi should have made it 2-0 on 39 minutes following a Hamburg right winger Mehdi Mahdavikia cross and Taiwan's keeper blunder, but his left drive went wide across the far post.
The Bundesliga-bound Karimi displayed his arrogance more five minutes later when a Khatibi header hit the crossbar and the ball fell to him, but the 2004 Asian Player of the Year unmarked in the 5.5-yard area kicked the ball so gently that the stranded keeper managed to return to his unguarded woodwork and palm away the ball and Karimi's tapping the rebound was blocked by a defender in the goalmouth.
Karimi, who scotched a widespread rumor of his transfer from Bayern Munich to the UAE's Al Ahly, doubled his scoring 11 minutes after the restart, picking up a striker Gholamreza Enayati through ball and finding the net with a chip.
Minnow Chinese Taipei was forced to play with 10 men in the last 14 minutes as Kao Hao-Chieh was red-carded for a wild foul on substitute striker Javad Kazemian.
In another Group B qualifier, the table-topper South Korea was held by the visiting Syria to a 1-1 tie in the capital Seoul.
Iran and Korea have 11 points each, but Korea remains on top on goal difference. The two qualified sides will clash for the top spot in the table in their second-leg game in Azadi Stadium in western Tehran on Nov. 15.
Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates have already advanced to the finals to be jointly hosted by Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia next July. The co-hosts went through automatically.
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