Iran beat Singapore to book Asian Cup berth

SINGAPORE - Iran eased the pressure on under-fire coach Afshin Ghotbi by qualifying for the 2011 Asian Cup finals after beating Singapore 3-1 on Wednesday.

On a humid night in the city state, Ghotbi, dressed in a suit jacket, anxiously prowled his technical area throughout despite 11th and 12th minute goals from Hadi Aghily and Mehrzad Madanchi setting Iran on their way.

Ghotbi had been under pressure from Iranian fans and media after a humiliating loss to Jordan in November and supporters handed out posters of the coach with his face crossed out before kick-off.

Singapore captain Mohamed Alam Shah pulled a goal back for the home side before halftime but substitute Gholamreza Rezaei broke away to seal the win in the 63rd minute for Iran with a delightful chip.

The result meant the three-times Asian Champions finished top of Group E with a game to spare on 10 points from five matches.

Singapore, on six points from five matches, will compete with Thailand and Jordan to qualify for the finals in Qatar next year as group runners-up.

Singapore travel to Jordan for their final match in March with Iran hosting Thailand.