A second-half brace from Isa al-Kasir earned Persepolis a 2-0 win over Pakhtakor in the quarter-final of the 2020 AFC Champions League and a place in the semi-final for the third time in four years.
Pakhtakor suffered a huge blow just 15 minutes into the match when talisman Jaloliddin Masharipov saw straight red following a challenge on Kamal Kamyabinia.
Jordanian referee Adham Makhadmeh referred to VAR before sending Masharipov off, making it the first VAR-reviewed red card in the history of the AFC Champions League.
Persepolis created the biggest chance of the first half with just seven minutes to the halftime whistle when left-back Saeed Aghaei advanced into the byline and delivered a pinpoint cross for al-Kasir who headed just wide.
After the break, coach Yahya Golmohammadi looked to take advantage of his side’s numerical superiority, piling the pressure on Pakhtakor and the plan yielded results within four minutes as Hossein Kanaani supplied a through pass for Siamak Nemati down the right and the number 88 squared for Kasir who converted first time past Eldorbek Suyunov to put Persepolis in the lead.
Pakhtakor had a rare chance in the 63rd minute after Dragan Ceran capitalised on some sloppy passing at the back, snatching the ball and squaring for OdiljonKhamrobekov at the edge of the box to send an effort that was deflected off the defender and behind for a corner.
Persepolis doubled their tally in the 66th minute and again it was Kasir on the scoresheet. The striker got on the end of an Aghaei cross, beating goalkeeper Suyunov at the near post for his fourth goal of the 2020 AFC Champions League.
Pakhtakor worked hard to get back into the game, but their only sight of goal was a 78th minute effort from substitute Hojimat Erkinov that was comfortably handled by goalkeeper Hamed Lak who ensured his Persepolis side are through to the next round having not conceded in three consecutive matches.
The result means Persepolis face Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in the semi-final on Saturday.
Al Nassr to make maiden AFC Champions League semi-final appearance
Al Nassr reached the AFC Champions League semi-final for the first time in their history after a convincing 2-0 win over compatriots Al Ahli Saudi at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium yesterday.
Both teams went into the quarter-final game with their strikers looking to extend personal scoring runs; Al Ahli’s Omar al-Soma had scored 10 goals in his 10 league starts against Al Nassr, while Abderazzak Hamdallah was level with Shanghai SIPG’s Hulk in scoring in nine consecutive AFC Champions League matches, and was hoping to make the record his.
Al Nassr started on the front foot and within 60 seconds they had created their first big chance as Khalid al-Ghannam advanced down the left, exchanged passes with Pity Martinez, and chipped Mohamed al-Owais from close range, but Abdelbaset al-Hindi interfered at the last moment, producing a goal line clearance to deny Al Nassr an early opener.
The two players combined again in the 13th minute, with al-Ghannam dribbling his way centrally and found Martinez inside the box. The Argentinian midfielder showed nimble feet to pass his marker and slot home his maiden goal in Al Nassr colours.
The Riyadh-based side continued their dominance and came close to doubling their lead halfway through the opening 45 minutes when former Al Ahli player Abdulfattah Asiri cut inside from the right and unleashed a powerful effort that narrowly missed the target.
Hamdallah missed a golden opportunity at the half-hour mark. The Moroccan striker latched onto a defence-splitting Asiri pass to go through on goal before drilling an effort that crept inches wide of the post.
After the halftime break, Al Ahli were determined in their search for an equaliser. However, after weathering the early storm, Al Nassr responded clinically with right-back Sultan al-Ghannam finding Asiri with a low cross and the winger controlling expertly to evade his marker and fire in against his former club to make it 2-0.
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