South Korea missed an opportunity to secure their place at the 2018 World Cup as they were held to a 0-0 draw by 10-man Iran in Seoul on Thursday.
Victory in Shin Tae-yong’s first match in charge would have locked up second place in Group A for Korea with Uzbekistan beaten 1-0 by China, but they could not find the breakthrough goal despite section winners Iran seeing Saeid Ezatolahi dismissed for kicking Kim Min-jae in the head after 52 minutes.
The Taeguk Warriors consequently failed to punch their ticket to the World Cup and now need to beat fourth-place Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Tuesday to guarantee they follow Iran – who displayed the defensive robustness that has seen them keep a clean sheet in all nine of their third-round matches – to Russia.
However, Korea are yet to win a Group A match on the road and sacked Uli Stielike after going down 3-2 to Qatar last June.
The hosts looked to get in behind Iran’s notoriously stern defence and Son Heung-min saw a free-kick from the edge of the box deflected wide.
Son’s long ball caused trouble for the visitors but Jang Hyun-soo was unable to steer Kim’s cushioned header into the back of the net in the 19th minute.
The hosts struggled to forge further chances before the break but they received a boost when Ezatolahi was shown a red card seven minutes after the restart when he kicked Kim in the head following an aerial challenge.
Korea pushed for a winner that would have sent them through and Kwon Chang-hoon rifled a 20-yard free-kick narrowly over after Rouzbeh Cheshmi tripped Jang Hyun-soo.
Carlos Queiroz’s side tightened up and soaked up the pressure until the final whistle, becoming the first team to leave Korea with a point during qualification for Russia 2018.
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