Iran's players celebrate after defeating North Korea in their 2011 Asian Cup Group D soccer match at Qatar Sports Club stadium in Doha January 15, 2011. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi
Ansari Fard flicked home the winner after 63 minutes of a largely uninspired game, riddled with mistakes from both sides, who largely cancelled each other out in a tedious midfield war of attrition.
Iran, who have now won both their matches and are seeking a first Asian Cup title since 1976, were the better team throughout but their midfield fulcrum of Javad Nekonam and Pejman Nouri rarely found the right pass.
The one occasion they did led to the only goal when Nouri crossed perfectly from the right and the unmarked Ansari Fard scored.
Iran top the group with six points, followed by the United Arab Emirates and North Korea, who both have one point. UAE were playing champions Iraq, who lost to Iran in their opening match, later.
Iran coach Afshin Ghoutbi, whose squad have been hit by a flu bug this week, was forced to make four changes from the side that beat Iraq, but thought his team had taken the lead after 28 minutes.
Ansari Fard held off a challenge from Korean defender Ri Jun-il, and fired in a well-taken shot, but the linesman flagged for handball.
Referee Nawaf Shukralla disallowed the goal then booked Ansari Fard for protesting although TV replays failed to show any infringement.
North Korea, who drew 0-0 with United Arab Emirates in their opening match, were, as expected, largely content to defend in numbers but they had two good scoring chances.
The first came after 17 minutes when striker Jong Tae-se smacked a powerful 25-metre free-kick straight at goalkeeper Mahdi Rahmati who could only parry the shot although the follow -up effort was smacked high over the bar.
The second came in stoppage time at the end of the second half when Hong Yong-jo’s fierce drive hit the top of the bar.
However, most of the entertainment coming from North Korea’s camp was from about 200 fans, almost all of whom were identically dressed in white shirts and ties.
But even their choreographed moves and chants dried up as the match failed to produce any real entertainment apart from the goal.