AFC - Islamic Republic of Iran's Persepolis came back from a goal down to salvage a 1-1 draw with Pakhtakor in their 2019 AFC Champions League Group D opener on Tuesday.
The visitors got off to a flyer, leaving the crowd at Azadi Stadium stunned as Marat Bikmaev tapped in from point-blank.
Dragan Ceran had beaten goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand with a header from close range but watched as the ball ricocheted off the upright.
Luckily for Pakhtakor, Bikmaev was perfectly positioned to capitalise and drive them into the lead.
Bikmaev picked up a pocket of space in the Iranian defence again but could not put enough power behind his header and Beiranvand easily collected the ball.
Last year’s finalists drew level in the 25th minute after Bashar Resan found Mario Budimir inside the box. The Croatian advanced and drilled one into the bottom corner of Sanjar Kuvvatov’s net.
Pakhtakor defended resiliently and looked to strike on the counter, but there were no clear-cut chances on either side, and the two teams went into the break level.
After the restart, Resan continued to be the biggest source of danger for the Iranian side who came close to getting their second goal of the evening in the 50th minute, but Kamal Kamyabinia’s header following the Iraqi midfielder’s corner-kick ended up on the wrong side of the post.
Substitute Siamak Nemati led a swift counter attacking move down the right flank and supplied the ball to Resan who then found Ali Alipour. The striker curled an effort the edge of the area, but Kuvvatov was quick to save.
The Iranian side piled the pressure on in an attempt to find a winner, Resan then attempted his own luck from outside the box but was denied by the Uzbek goalkeeper. Despite their best efforts, Persepolis had to settle for a point at the final whistle.
Persepolis travel to Doha for a repeat of last year’s semi-final against Al Sadd next week, while Pakhtakor’s Matchday Two encounter sees them host Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.
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