Thu, Oct 04, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Iran’s Persepolis clinch vital away win in Doha

AFP, DOHA

Al Sadd’s Baghdad Bounedjah, right, heads the ball next to Persepolis’ Shayan Mosleh, center, during their AFC Champions League semi-final at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Persepolis have one foot in the final of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League as the Iranian giants clinched a crucial 1-0 away victory over Qatar’s Al Sadd in a physical semi-final first leg on Tuesday.

Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira described the game in Doha as a “wrestling match.”

Striker Ali Alipour scored the all-important goal from the penalty spot in the 86th minute after Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb brought him down just inside the box.

Alipour placed his shot to al-Sheeb’s left and although the goalkeeper made a valiant dive, he could not prevent the ball from going into the net.

The Al Sadd players furiously protested the penalty, but Sri Lankan referee Dilan Perera stuck to his guns and also booked goalkeeper al-Sheeb in the process.

Persepolis’ defensive nature was evident throughout the match, which saw them make few inroads into Al Sadd territory.

There were several skirmishes and plenty of pushing and shoving as the tough-tackling Iranians made their intentions clear.

The strategy paid off well as they were able to keep Al Sadd’s prolific striker Baghdad Bounedjah silent throughout the match and blunted many of Akram Afif’s thrusts into the penalty area.

Bounedjah, the Algerian who is top scorer in the tournament with 12 goals so far, hardly managed a decent shot at goal, with the resolute Jalal Hosseini, the Persepolis captain, exceling in defense.

Al Sadd only have themselves to blame for not making the most of the 66 percent ball possession that they enjoyed.

Afif had the best chance for Al Sadd, but the forward saw his low shot in the 43rd minute deflected away from the goal by Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, who displayed great anticipation and presence of mind throughout.

Late in the match, Afif managed to knock the ball into the net as Beiranvand tossed it into the air for a goal-kick, but the goal was disallowed by the referee.

Al Sadd coach Ferreira was unhappy at Persepolis’ approach to the game.

“The Iranian team is a very difficult team. They were playing wrestling and this is not football. We fought a lot over the course of the match,” the Portuguese veteran said.

“Now we have no choice but to win the return leg,” Ferreira added. “We realize how difficult it is to achieve this goal, but are determined to achieve it.”

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