Iran thrashes Lebanon 5-0 in Asian Cup qualifier
Three-time champion Iran kick-starts its 2015 Asian Cup qualifying campaign with a crushing 5-0 victory over Lebanon, with captain Javad Nekounam starring a hat-trick.
Nekounam, an ex-Osasuna player, slotted penalties either side of half-time and added the hosts' fifth and final goal in Tehran's Azadi Stadium in front of 10,000 fans on Wednesday.
Mojtaba Jabbari slotted a pass to striker Reza Qouchannejad who scored the first goal in the 26th minute to put the Iranians in front.
Qouchannejad made it 4-0 in the 62nd from close range off a pass from midfielder Ashkan Dejagah. Nekounam scored his third in the 80th.
The win makes Iran an early favorite to join Japan, host nation Australia and South Korea, who finished first, second and third in 2011, at the Asian Cup's next edition in early 2015.
The top two teams from each of the five qualifying groups go through, along with the best third-placed team, with Iran already well placed at the top of Group B.
Earlier, the United Arab Emirates defeated Vietnam 2-1, and 10-man Hong Kong held Uzbekistan 0-0 in Tashkent, while Kuwait made Southeast Asian runners-up Thailand suffer in front of their own fans with a 3-1 victory in Bangkok.
Later on Wednesday, Jose Antonio Camacho's China plays three-time champions Saudi Arabia, and 2007 champions Iraq host Indonesia.