sport

Iran and Nigeria in stalemate

Iran and Nigeria played out a dull 0-0 draw in their World Cup Group F clash in Curitiba on Monday.

Carlos Queiroz's Iran side were always going to be a tough nut to crack for the Super Eagles, having kept the most clean sheets in qualifying of any nation to reach the finals in Brazil.

In the end, there proved to be no way through for either side in what was a disappointing encounter.

Nigeria boasted 70% possession over the course of the 90 minutes but only fashioned one shot more than the Iranians.

Reza Ghoochannejhad's header - well saved by Vincent Enyeama - and Ahmed Musa's free-kick were the best chances of the first period while after the break, substitute Shola Ameobi was twice thwarted by Iran defender Mehrdad Poolani.

Victor Moses, on loan at Liverpool from Chelsea last season, had Nigeria's first chance in the third minute when he hit a poor shot at inexperienced Iranian keeper Reza Haghighi.

Haghighi looked uncomfortable when pressured by the Nigerian front men and was lucky to escape in the seventh minute after flapping at a corner.

The ball dropped to Kenneth Omeruo, who poked the ball in the net - but the referee had already blown for a foul on the keeper by John Obi Mikel.

Emmanuel Emenike was having some success down the Nigerian left, with Iranian right-back Pejman Montazeri struggling to contain the speed of the Fenerbahce striker.

Ahmed Musa tried to cut a clever free-kick inside Haghighi's left-hand post from a long-range free-kick in the 31st minute but the Nigerians' lack of cutting edge began to instill the Iranians with confidence.

And their big chance came in the 33rd minute when Ghoochannejhad met an Ashkan Dejagah corner with a header which brought an excellent reflex save out of Enyeama.

Iran continued to grow in confidence early in the second half, when Ghoochannejhad screwed a long-range shot wide of target.

But it had developed into a largely dismal affair, with neither side looking capable of challenging Group F rivals Argentina or Bosnia.

Former Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi replaced Moses after 52 minutes and immediately came close to connecting with a cross from the left by Ramon Azeez.

And after Ogenyi Onazi drilled a low shot straight at Haghighi, the Nigerians came close to grabbing a scarcely deserved victory in the final minute.

Ameobi met a Juwon Oshaniwa cross with an effort which was superbly intercepted by Poolani, then the same player blocked an Ameobi header before the final whistle was greeted by a chorus of boos.

Iran meet Argentina in Belo Horizonte on Saturday, after which Nigeria take on Bosnia in Cuiaba.