AFC - Ten-man Persepolis FC reached the final of the 2020 AFC Champions League after overcoming Al Nassr 5-3 on penalties after 120 minutes of the semi-final ended in a 1-1 draw at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Saturday.
Persepolis goalkeeper Hamed Lak was the hero as he saved An Nassr's fourth spot-kick - taken by Maicon - as the Islamic Republic of Iran side advanced to their second AFC Champions League final in three years and denied Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr a maiden appearance in the continental final.
Play was centred around the pitch with a relative advantage for Al Nassr in the opening quarter of an hour, but it took 18 minutes for the first chance of the match to arrive as Persepolis' Bashar Resan found space inside the Saudi side's half and lined a low drive that crept wide.
The two sides exchanged blows over the next 15 minutes, with Abdi Mehdi Qara heading wide from Resan’s cross halfway into the opening period and Abderrazzak Hamdallah reciprocating from Sultan Al Ghannam’s delivery at the half-hour mark.
Ten minutes from the half-time whistle, Al Nassr were awarded a penalty after Resan brought Khalid Al Ghannam down inside the box. Hamdallah stepped up confidently and chipped it into the back of the net ‘Panenka’ style for his seventh goal of the 2020 AFC Champions League.
Persepolis needed just six minutes to restore parity after Vahid Amiri dispossessed left-back Awad Khamis deep in Al Nassr’s half and fed Resan who whipped in a cross for Qara who guided his header past goalkeeper Brad Jones to make it 1-1 in the 42nd minute.
Al Nassr were dealt a blow at half-time with Khalid Al Ghannam withdrawn through injury to be replaced by Ayman Yahya.
Goalkeeper Lak was beaten for the second time on the night just a minute after the restart when Hamdallah curled a free-kick that went over the wall and past the Persepolis goalkeeper, but the crossbar came to Persepolis' rescue.
With 20 minutes left, Sultan Al Ghannam was stretchered off with a groin injury, following his namesake into the treatment room as coach Rui Vitoria introduced Osama Al Khalaf in his place.
Hamdallah got on the end of several crosses in the final 20 minutes but was unlucky not to convert; first the Moroccan controlled Abdullah Al Khaibari’s cross with his chest and struck on the half-volley, but his attempt went wide, then minutes later he headed Pity Martinez’s set-piece off the ground and behind for a goal kick as the game headed into extra time.
Persepolis were reduced to 10 men in the final minute of an otherwise quiet first half of extra time as midfielder Ehsan Pahlavan received his second yellow card of the night following a challenge on Al Nassr substitute Abdulrahman Al Dossari.
Playing with a numerical disadvantage for the remaining quarter of an hour, Persepolis showed some resilient defending in the face of an avalanche of Al Nassr attacks and were able take the game to the penalty shootout.
Centre-backs Hossein Kanaani and Abdullah Madu converted from the spot then Siamak Nemati and Martinez followed suit. Milad Sarlak made it 3-2 for Persepolis and substitute Abdulrahman Al Obaid ensured the score was level after three shots each.
It was the turn of the other two centre-backs; Shojae Khalilzadeh scored for Persepolis but goalkeeper Lak saved from Maicon to hand his side the advantage. Substitute Ali Shojae sealed the Iranian side’s victory with the final spot-kick to send them into the final with a 5-3 win.
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