(AFC)- Zobahan ensured they finished the group stage of the 2016 AFC Champions League undefeated as Yahya Golmohammadi’s side handed Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr a 3-0 defeat on Wednesday.
Ehsin Pahlavan and Masoud Hassanzadeh struck in the first half before Al Nassr goalkeeper Hussain Shaian was sent off just ahead of the hour mark as the Riyadh club bowed out of the competition in disappointing fashion. Hashem Beikzadeh added a third for Zobahan three minutes from time.
The win sets up a Round of 16 meeting for Zobahan with inaugural ACL champions Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates, with the Emiratis due to host the first leg on May 17 and the return in Iran a week later.
“I’m very happy for this victory and I’m proud of my players who put in a good performance tonight,” said Golmohammadi. “We tried our best not to give the chance for our opponents to control the match and we managed to reduce the space that they could use.
“We pushed very hard in the match, which was very difficult, and the players put in a lot of effort. In the second half we made some replacements to refresh our team and I want to thank all the players for their effort.”
Zobahan went into the game having already secured top spot in Group B and a place in the Round of 16, but Golmohammadi’s team were still intent on putting on a show and claiming their fourth win of the campaign.
Adrian Mierzejewski’s attempt from outside the area was parried by Mohammadrashid Mazaheri in the Zobahan goal before Mohammad Nejadmehdi headed to safety, but that initial threat from Al Nassr proved to be an anomaly as Zobahan dominated.
Hassanzadeh twice squandered opportunities in the opening 27 minutes before Pahlavan put Zobahan in front in the 30th minute when danced his way through the Al Nassr defence after a poor clearance by Shaian had gifted possession to the Iranians.
Pahlavan should have doubled his side’s lead five minutes later only to power his header the wrong side of the post, but in the 40th minute, the striker was brought down in the area by Shaian, and referee Muhamad Taqi pointed to the spot while brandishing a yellow card in the goalkeeper’s direction. Hassanzadeh made no mistake with his spot kick, beating Shaian to his right.
With the points secured and with a man advantage, Zobahan continued to control the game and, with three minutes remaining, they completed their comfortable win when Beikzadeh cut in from the left before sliding his shot beyond substitute goalkeeper Muteb Sharahili.
“We tried our best to control the match but we failed as we made several mistakes. This allowed our opponents to create their own chances and they scored three goals which gave them the victory,” said Al Nassr coach Raul Caneda.
“We have had a lot of issues ahead of the match and we tried our best to play as well as we could. Zobahan are one of the better sides in the competition and they have several good players.”