Analysis: Calm Persepolis perfect their plan

( It was evident that Persepolis had arrived in Abu Dhabi with a gameplan. Ali Alipour’s early goal helped their cause and although matters were slightly complicated by Kamal Kamyabinia’s 11th minute sending off, the Tehran giants succeeded in seeing it through.

Persepolis’ productive pressing
Persepolis put numbers in midfield and were able to limit Al Ahli’s offensive threat by denying space for and cutting the passing channels to Syrian striker Omar Al Soma

Although Al Ahli enjoyed 63.3 percent of the possession, it was Persepolis who seemed to have the upper hand. Branko Ivankovic’s men pressed well when without the ball and were calm when in possession, even when Al Ahli equalised through Saleh Al Jamaan in the 52nd minute. Persepolis were especially comfortable on the left wing, where Vahid Amiri was at the centre of some good combinations to frustrate the opposition and win corners.

Al Ahli lack clarity
On the other hand, Al Ahli were unable to benefit from their numerical advantage. They exchanged 494 passes with an accuracy rate of 83.8 percent but not enough of them were forward passes that could add potency to their attack.

Al Ahli’s top five pass combinations involved only their backline and defensive midfielder Claudemir (see pass matrix above). The team had five shots on target at the end of the match, the same number as Persepolis, who had very little of the ball. Al Jamaan’s fine strike was a rare bright spot for Al Ahli, whose players resorted to wayward long range shots at occasions.

Omar Al Soma, who had scored his fifth goal of the tournament in the first leg, failed to add to his tally in Abu Dhabi. Al Soma touched the ball 25 times and was only able to register 16 passes during the game, reducing his danger.

Defensive frailties prove costly
At the very beginning of the match, Al Ahli’s defence made a costly error that saw Alipour race through and finish past Mohammed Al Owais.

Al Jamaan’s goal seemed to have saved Al Ahli but the Saudi side could not hold on to the away goal advantage or add to the scoreline. Instead, two more defensive mistakes in the last 15 minutes brought about two penalties and cost them the tie.

Both penalties could have been avoided: the first was a result of a handball on the line by Motaz Hawsawi after Al Ahli failed to clear when the ball bounced around following a corner.

The second penalty was given after Persepolis substitute Bashar Resan was allowed to dribble into the box, where he drew a late tackle from Ali Al Asmari.