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Persepolis oust Xavi’s Al Sadd with late Champions League goal

Doha (AFP) – Issa Alekasir scored with a brilliant late header on Sunday to put Iran’s Persepolis into the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League with a 1-0 victory over Qatar giants Al Sadd.

Alekasir leapt in front of the defence and powered the ball into the net in the 88th minute after Omid Alishah had executed a perfect corner at the new brand Education City Stadium, one of the venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Xavi’s Al Sadd were carrying Qatar’s hopes into the knock-out rounds after domestic league champions Al Duhail were knocked out by Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun in the group stage.

Xavi, repeatedly linked with crisis-hit Barcelona with whom he won four UEFA Champions League titles as a player, was appointed Al Sadd coach last year on a two-year contract after playing 82 matches for the team over a four-year period.

In 2018, Al Sadd reached the semi-finals of the tournament with Xavi as captain but were eliminated 2-1 by Persepolis who went on to finish runners-up to Japan’s Kashima Antlers.

Last year, as coach the Spaniard took Al Sadd to the last four before losing to eventual winners Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday, it was third time unlucky for Xavi as Al Sadd met their 2018 nemesis Persepolis in a match that saw both teams live dangerously.

New signing Santi Cazorla forced Persepolis goalkeeper Hamed Lak into a save in the 13th minute, the only clear chance the home team had in the first half despite enjoying long spells of possession.

Alekasir almost gave the Iranians the lead after an hour but his shot hit the upright.

The striker was again close a few minutes later when he went full-stretch to meet a cross from Bashar Resan but his shot this time bounced off the crossbar.

Al Sadd’s Akram Afif and Name Tae-hee had efforts saved by Persepolis goalkeeper Lak before Alekasir sealed the winner for the Iranians two minutes from close.

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