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Saturday, 10 November, 2001, 19:59 GMT
Irish take two-goal advantage
Republic of Ireland 2-0 Iran
The Republic of Ireland will take a 2-0 lead into Thursday's World Cup play-off second leg in Tehran thanks to goals from Ian Harte and Robbie Keane.
Irish boss Mick McCarthy will be satisfied with the two-goal cushion but he knows there is still a huge amount of work to do in Iran.
The Iranians showed they are a formidable force and Republic goalkeeper Shay Given had to make two magnificent second half saves to keep the visitors scoreless.
Harte's 44th minute opener came from a questionable penalty after Iranian defender Rezaei had been adjudged to have fouled Jason McAteer.
Robbie Keane hit the second six minutes after half-time with a glorious left-footed shot.
The Republic produced a frantic start with Jason McAteer attempting to weave his way through the Iranian defence and then having penalty claims for handball turned down.
Roy Keane showed no ill-effects from his knee trouble early on and was lucky not to pick up a booking in the fifth minute after a crunching challenge on Bagheri.
The Republic tested Iran goalkeeper Ebrahim Mirzapour with several high balls into the penalty area in Niall Quinn's direction.
Mirzapour dealt with the early challenges well but gave the Irish cause for optimism by flapping alarmingly at a McAteer cross and completely missing the ball.
However, the Irish play was frenetic with the tension of the occasion leading to a few wayward passes.
The first clear chance of the match came on the half-hour with Mirzapour having to react smartly to deny Robbie Keane after Quinn had won another aerial contest.
Ali Karimi showed his dribbling skills in the 31st minute with a threatening break into Irish territory.
The Irish defence eventually hustled the attacker off the ball and a minute later Staunton made a vital intervention when Karimi was again in a dangerous position.
At the other end, the ball broke invitingly to Staunton in the Iranian penalty box on 34 minutes but his first touch was poor and the goalkeeper smothered at the Aston Villa man's feet.
Just when it looked as though the teams would be scoreless at the interval, Ireland made the breakthrough with Ian Harte hitting the target from the penalty-spot a minute before the break.
Brazilian referee Antonio Pereira da Silva adjudged that defender Rezaei had felled Jason McAteer although there appeared to have been minimal contact.
However, Harte made no mistake with an emphatic finish for his seventh international goal.
Robbie Keane was presented a chance less than a minute after the interval.
However, the Leeds striker's free header from six yards was straight at the Iranian goalkeeper.
A minute later the ball broke dangerously to Keane in the box but Rezaei produced a vital block to only concede a corner.
But the Leeds man was coming ominously into the game and sure enough, he added Ireland's second goal six minutes after the break.
McAteer's free-kick was only half-cleared and Keane hammered a glorious left-footed finish high into the net from 10 yards.
However, Given had to come to Ireland's rescue with two magnificent stops to deny the dangerous Karimi.
In the 55th minute, the Iranian attacker outwitted Steve Finnan and then found himself with only Given to beat.
However, the Newcastle goalkeeper dived at Karimi's feet to grasp the ball safely.
Two minutes later, Given produced an incredible reach to somehow stop Karimi's close-range shot after the striker had cut inside Gary Breen.
Seconds later, Jason McAteer missed a glorious chance which could have potentially settled the tie, with a downward header which bounced inches over the bar.
But by now the Iranians, spurred by Karimi, were looking very dangerous.
The striker again dribbled his way through the Irish defence in the 67th minute only for Breen to make a vital interception.
Mick McCarthy, sensing the danger, brought on Kenny Cunningham for Steve Staunton, in an attempt to curb Karimi.
But the Iranians continued to press and the final quarter was played almost exclusively in the Irish half.
Karim Bagheri missed a great chance five minutes from time after he had out-foxed Ian Harte.
Republic of Ireland: Given, Finnan, Breen, Staunton, Harte, McAteer, Holland, Roy Keane, Kilbane; Quinn, Robbie Keane. Subs: Gary Kelly, Cunningham, Connolly, Kinsella, Carsley, Morrison, Kiely.
Iran: Mirzapour, Mahdavikia, Golmohammadi, Peyravani, Rezaei, Kavianpour, Bagheri, Minavand, Karimi, Daei, Vahedinikbakht. Subs: Nakoonam, Dinohammadi, Khaziravi, Hashemian, Samereh, Rahbarifard, Fatemi.
Referee: A Pereira da Silva (Brazil)
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