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Fifth Iran Pro League 23rd-week matches

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IRNA - The 23rd-week matches of the 16-strong fifth Iran Pro League Thursday:
Note: Foulad-Shamoushak game in the 22nd week was not held as Shamoushak failed to fly to the southern city of Abadan due to bad weather.

TABLE-TOPPER ESTEQLAL WHITEWASHES FAJR
Pacesetter Esteqlal of Tehran tamed the budding Fajr-e Sepassi 3-0 in Hafezieh Stadium in the southern capital Shiraz .

Striker Siavash Akbarpour poked home from close range in the 37th minute to give the visitor a 1-0 first-half lead.

Top scorer Gholam-Reza Enayati doubled the cushion six minutes after the interval, celebrating his second and Esteqlal's third after steering home a rebound on 65 minutes.

Esteqlal is on top with 46 points and Fajr in the sixth place on 33 points.

SABA ENDS SAIPA UNBEATEN STREAK, HELPS PAS MOVE TO SECOND SPOT Saba Battery came from one goal down to end Saipa's 21-week unbeaten streak, helping Pas move up to second place with a victory over Esteqlal of Ahvaz.

Saipa that needed a win to retain the second place conceded a 2-1 home loss in Enqelab Stadium, Karaj, as fullback Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh and national skipper Ali Daei found the net after the break.

Ali Abbasfard put Saipa ahead in the 27th minute, but
Bakhtiarizadeh canceled out his opener on 71 minutes and Daei grabbed the winner four minutes later.

Under Turkish manager Mustafa Denizli, Pas took optimal advantage of the Saipa loss, leapfrogging it with a 2-1 win over the home team Esteqlal in Takhti Stadium in the southern city of Shoushtar.

Javad Shirzad and Arash Borhani scored in the 45th and 50th minutes and Ali-Akbar Mehdipour scored Esteqlal's consolation goal 14 minutes from time.

Pas sticks to the heels of pacesetter Esteqlal of Tehran with 42 points and the Ahvazi side Esteqlal lies in the 13 spot on 23 points.

Saipa moves down to the third place with 41 points and Saba occupies the fourth slot with 36 points.

KAZEMIAN DOUBLE WELCOMES NEW MANAGER HAAN
Persepolis striker Javad Kazemian hit two to welcome the newly appointed Dutch trainer Arie Haan with a home 2-1 victory over struggling Barq in Azadi Stadium in western Tehran.

Undergoing a reshuffle, the reds had a dream start, taking the lead after six minutes following a trademark long throw from striker Ali Alizadeh and a header from an unmarked Kazemian.

The lowly Barq leveled the match 12 minutes later when Bosnian striker Meshanovic rose to found the unguarded net with a header.

The frolic forward Kazemian, however, grabbed the second after a one-two with Barq defender and a well-struck drive past keeper two minutes into stoppage time.

Barq came close to the equalizer after the restart as Meshanovic rattled the post, but Persepolis celebrated a badly-needed win with a completely different lineup.

Three regulars Hamed Kavianpour, Ali Ansarian, and Ebrahim Assadi were suspended by the club as a punishment for a fracas in the locker room after last week's 3-0 defeat by Sepahan.

Persepolis remains in the ninth place of the fifth Iran Pro League table with 31 points out of 23 games and Barq is in the 14th spot on 23 points.

Haan, who arrived here Thursday, was warmly welcomed by Persepolis officials in Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA), 40 km south of the capital.

He headed for Laleh Hotel in central Tehran to hold a short talk with players before fielding his new side against the Shiraz-based Barq.

The manager filled Ali Parvin's shoes.

ABU MOSLEM BEATS RAH AHAN AT HOME
Abu Moslem snatched a 2-0 away victory over Rah Ahan in Ekbatan Stadium in Tehran.

Striker Hossein Badamaki and Vahid Khani scored for Abu Moslem, helping the visitor retain the 10th place with 31 points.

Promoted Rah Ahan lies in the 12th spot on 24 points.

Alborz Hajipour refereed the game.

SEPAHAN, MALAVAN SPLIT THE POINTS
The match between Sepahan and the visiting Malavan ended in a goalless tie in Naqsh-e Jahan Stadium in the central capital Isfahan.

The draw was not appealing to home fans, who booed and jeered players and officials.

Having 26 points, Malavan is in the 11th place and Sepahan moves down to eighth spot on 31 points.

TEN-MAN SHAMOUSHAK, ZOB STRUGGLE TO STALEMATE
The honors were even for Shamoushak and Zob Ahan that were reduced to 10 men in their clash in Shohada Stadium, the northern city of Noshahr.

More than 1,000 spectators rued a goal during the match.

Both sides were forced to play with 10 men as the referee Khodadad Afsharian red-carded the home keeper Mahmoud Bahraini and Zob Ahan Brazilian striker Da Silva on 50 and 60 minutes respectively.

Shamoushak occupies the 15th slot with 19 points and one match in hand and Zob Ahan lies in the fifth place with a 33-point asset.

BOTTOM-PLACED QANDI HOLDS HOLDER FOULAD
The relegation-zone Shahid Qandi fought to a scoreless draw against the visiting holder Foulad in Shahid Nassiri Stadium in the central capital Yazd.

Playing before some 3,000 fans, the home team and southerners split the points.

The draw left Qandi in the rock bottom, 16th place, on meager 18 points and Foulad in the seventh spot with 33 and one match in hand.

Assisted by linesmen Alireza Tahouri and Saeid Fattahi, Sadat Baghban refereed the match.

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