Iran hold World Cup hosts Russia in Kazan

Moscow (AFP) –


World Cup hosts Russia drew 1-1 with Iran on Tuesday in a friendly that did little to dispel doubts about their ability to challenge the elite next year.

Zenit St Petersburg striker Dmitry Poloz came off the bench to cancel out Sardar Azmoun's 57th-minute opener for the visitors.

It was Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov's fourth draw in 14 matches since he took over in August 2016.

Freed from the need to qualify as the host nation, his side has had to make do with a diet of friendlies.

But it was Iran, who have already qualified for next year's tournament, who looked more creative in the first half, watched by 32,000 fans at the Kazan Arena in eastern Russia.

AZ Alkmaar forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh's powerful free-kick in the 21st minute skimmed inches over the crossbar.

Iran's Azmoun, who plays with the local team Rubin Kazan, had a chance to give Iran the lead five minutes later but saw his close-range attempt confidently saved by 'keeper Andrei Lunev.

Russia had just one chance before half-time in the 28th minute when Zenit midfielder Alexander Erokhin sent a rebound from a Konstantin Rausch free-kick just wide.

Azmoun broke the deadlock for Iran in the 57th minute, firing past the helpless Lunev from a short cross by Mehdi Taremi.

The hosts hit back in the 74th minute when Poloz converted a cross by Alexander Samedov to level.

The hosts, fresh from their success, piled on the pressure but Russia's poor finishing let them down.