After wasting a string of chances, Iran finally took the lead through Omid Noorafkan’s 87th minute penalty, but it wasn’t enough to extend its stay in the competition, with Uzbekistan advancing on goal difference despite a 2-1 loss to South Korea in the simultaneous game of the group, the-afc.com reported.
After a draw and a loss in its opening two matches, Iran’s hopes of staying in Thailand beyond Thursday relied on a change of fortunes, but Hamid Estili’s side endured another wasteful first half which ended scoreless despite 14 shots at goal to China’s three.
Impressive Chinese keeper Chen Wei made a point blank save from a Jafar Salmani header within three minutes into the game, and it proved to be a sign of things to come as Iran created, then squandered, chance after chance.
Allahyar Sayyadmanesh twice forced Chen into fine reflex saves, and Ali Shojaei narrowly missed the target with a header, before Mehdi Mehdikhani ended the first half by failing to find the back of the net from a distance of just three yards in stoppage time.
With Uzbekistan level with South Korea at the interval in Pathum Thani, Iran emerged from the dressing room in need of a significant turnaround on both sides of the country, and Estili looked to boost its attacking stocks with the introduction of Mehdi Qaedi.
A four-pronged frontline meant Iran continued to threaten, but it came close to falling behind when a thunderous Chen Pu drive rattled the crossbar in the 66th minute.
But most of the chances came in Iran’s attacking third, and it was given a lifeline when awarded a late penalty, with captain Noorafkan stepping up to stroke his side into the lead.
Estili’s side poured forward in search of the all-important second, but Qaedi headed wide when Chen had left an open net, squandering one of the last opportunities of the game as Iran’s Olympic dream was dashed.