Iranian reps finish 2019 ACL on high note

TEHRAN, May 21 (MNA) – Iran’s Esteghlal and Persepolis earned wins on the final matchday of the 2019 AFC Champions League while they had already lost hope to advance to the Round of 16.

Esteghlal 2-1 Al Ain

According to the AFC website, Islamic Republic of Iran’s Esteghlal came from behind to earn a 2-1 win against UAE’s Al Ain at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Matchday Six of the 2019 AFC Champions League Group C on Monday.

With the first clear-cut chance of the game, Al Ain took the lead through Marcus Berg 13 minutes in. The Swedish international striker brought the ball over the halfway line before supplying it to Bandar Al Ahbabi wide on the right.

Berg then charged into the penalty box to get on the end of Al Ahbabi’s return pass and apply a composed first-time finish through the legs of Seyed Hosseini for the opening goal.

Esteghlal equalized eight minutes later through Mohammad Daneshgar. The defender outmuscled his marker inside the box and powered home a header from Vorya Ghafouri’s out-swinging corner-kick.

Just as the first half drew to a close, Esteghlal turned the tables on their hosts through Morteza Tabrizi. Full-back Milad Zakipour advanced down the left and crossed low for Ayanda Patosi who cushioned the ball for Tabrizi to drill low into the bottom corner of Khaled Eisa’s net, sending his side into the dressing room in the lead.

Esteghlal came racing off the blocks in the second half, and within two minutes Mehdi Ghayedi had dribbled into Al Ain’s box, drawing a penalty kick after he was brought down by Tongo Doumbia. Patosi stepped up to take the spot-kick and despite aiming for the top corner, goalkeeper Khaled Eisa was able to make a diving save to deny Esteghlal a third goal.

The result means Al Ain went an entire AFC Champions League campaign without a single win for the first time in their history as they finished bottom of the group with two points. Esteghlal, meanwhile, climbed up to eight points but stayed third, one point behind Al Duhail.

Persepolis 2-0 Al Sadd

Persepolis FC ended their 2019 AFC Champions League Group D campaign on a high as the Iranian champions beat Qatar's Al Sadd SC 2-0 on Monday.

Having already secured their place in the Round of 16, Al Sadd needed a point to ensure they ended the group stage in top spot, while Persepolis had already been eliminated and sat bottom of the group with four points.

In the final outing of his illustrious career, 39-year-old Xavi continued to be the prime creative force for Al Sadd. Five minutes in, the Spaniard collected the ball at the centre circle and supplied a through pass for Baghdad Bounedjah who looked to lob over Alireza Beiranvand, but the Persepolis goalkeeper stretched and made the save with his fingertips.

Persepolis’ first attempt of the match produced the opening goal in the 16th minute. Torabi collected Ahmad Noorollahi’s pass 30 yards from goal and unleashed a thunderous drive into the top corner of Saad Al Sheeb’s net to put the hosts in front.

Persepolis thought they had doubled their lead at the half-hour mark when a Torabi corner was cleared by Jung Woo-young, but only as far as Mohsen Rabikhah, who struck from the edge of the penalty box, beating the goalkeeper. However, Al Sadd midfielder Salem Al Hajri was well positioned to clear the ball off the goal-line.

After the restart, Al Sadd looked to take the game to their opponents in an effort to find the equaliser, and they came as close as possible in the 64th minute when the 2018 AFC Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan beat Beiranvand from 35 yards out, but watched his powerful effort ricochet off the bottom of the upright.

Torabi then turned provider for Persepolis in the 67th minute, breaking free down the left flank and finding Alipour with a perfectly weighted pass. Alipour rode off the initial tackle of Tarek Salman before drilling a low effort through the legs of Al Sheeb to make it 2-0.

With nine minutes left on the clock, Xavi had a golden chance to mark the last game of his career with a trademark goal, but the Al Sadd captain’s effort from the free-kick just grazed the top of the net and went behind for a goal-kick.

For the first time since the opening matchday, Al Sadd were unable to find the back of the net in 90 minutes as Boualem Khoukhi tried to take advantage of a defensive mix-up, but saw his attempt from close range blocked by goalkeeper Beiranvand.

Al Sadd advanced to the round of 16 as Group D leaders with 10 points and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli came second with 9 points. Persepolis, the 2018 ACL runner-up, finished 4th in the table.

Reporting by the AFC

MAH/PR

News Code 145523

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