DOHA (Qatar) (AFP) – Persepolis have one foot in the final of the AFC Champions League as the Iranian giants clinched a crucial 1-0 away victory over Qatar’s Al Sadd in their semi-final first-leg encounter on Tuesday.
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 at the Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.
Alipour placed his shot to al-Sheeb’s left but although the goalkeeper made a valiant diving effort to manage a touch, he could not prevent the ball from going into the net.
The Al Sadd players had 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.
However, the strategy paid off 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 the tournament’s top scorer with 12 goals so far, hardly managed a decent shot at goal, with the resolute Jalal Hosseini, the Persepolis captain, excelling in defence.
However, Al Sadd only had themselves to blame for failing to make the most of the 66 percent possession they enjoyed.
Afif had the best chance for Al Sadd but the young 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 even as Beiranvand tossed it into the air for a goalkick, but the goal was disallowed by the referee.
The two sides will now clash in the second leg again on October 23 at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
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