(IranSportsPress – AFC) Tehran: Persepolis captain Seyed Jalal Hosseini has admitted that his side faced a tough obstacle in Al Jazira in the AFC Champions League Round of 16 as the defender’s last-minute strike in Monday’s second leg secured a 2-1 win on the night to advance on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate scoreline.
After a 96th-minute Al Jazira goal saw the Emirati side claim a 3-2 win in the first leg in Abu Dhabi last week, Persepolis went into the return meeting needing a win to have any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals for the second successive year.
The hosts dominated but had to wait until just after the hour to take the lead through Ahmad Nourollahi’s stunning effort from distance, only for Brazilian Romarinho to level and silence a packed Azadi Stadium shortly after.
But Persepolis kept pushing forward and eventually got the winner their performance deserved when Hosseini, who was suspended for the first leg, fired home from 15 yards after Al Jazira had failed to clear a delivery from the left.
“It was a difficult match and we played against a very professional side,” said Hosseini, who skippered Persepolis to their maiden AFC Champions League semi-final appearance last year.“They were a team that played on the counter-attack and had three brilliant players who were great on the ball. “I want to thank God that we defeated them and I also thank our fans. I hope we can keep going.”
The victory maintained the Tehran side’s perfect home record in the current continental campaign as Al Jazira became the latest side to leave the Iranian capital on the back of a defeat.
On Monday, 80,000 fans packed into Azadi Stadium in what was the Iranian Pro League champions’ biggest attendance in this season’s competition.
Persepolis can now look forward to a three-month break until the tournament resumes with the quarter-finals in late August, when the side will be confident they can at least match their semi-final showing from 2017.
“We could have come into this in a much better position had we got a draw in Abu Dhabi,” added Bashar Resan, who came off the bench with just under 15 minutes remaining.
“It was a tense match with the pressure of a huge number of fans watching us and Al Jazira were within a goal of qualifying at any point.
“But we won and that’s what matters most. Our objective is to reach the final and we promise our fans that we will.”