Iran's Mehdi Taremi (1st L) celebrates after scoring in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualification match between China and Iran, in Tehran, Iran, March 28, 2017. Iran won 1-0. (Xinhua/Guo Yong)
Pacemaker Iran kept seventh consecutive clean sheets in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification, beating China 1-0 at the Azadi Stadium on Tuesday.
Midfielder Mehdi Taremi scored only 40 seconds after the interval. Chinese left back Jiang Zhipeng failed to clear the ball with his header in a goalmouth melee, gifting Taremi a wonderful chance to volley home in close range.
Iran managed to lead Group A with 17 points from seven games to date, followed by South Korea which overcame Syria 1-0 at home to collect 13 points.
Group A has Iran, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Syria, China and Qatar. After a home-and-away round robin, the top two finishers will qualify for the World Cup finals directly and the third placer will enter playoffs with its counterpart in Group B.
With only five points out of the seven matches, China has a slim hope to survive Group A with only three matches remaining.