Esteghlal to advance after winning 2-0 (Video)
Esteghlal set up a mouth-watering Round of 16 clash against Iranian league rivals Sepahan in the AFC Champions League after easing to a 2-0 win over Uzbek side Nasaf in their final Group A match on Wednesday.
Goran Jerkovic put the visitors ahead after only nine minutes and Mojtaba Jabari added a second from the penalty spot early in the second half to put the Tehran giants in control at Karshi Stadium.
The only sour note for Esteghlal was the dismissal of their captain, Mehdei Amirabadi, midway through the second half after he received his second booking of the match.
"Today was a very good game for us. We did our best and we won the game well," said Esteghlal coach Parviz Mazloumi.
"I know that Nasaf are a very good team and they played very well today. The only reason that they had such bad results was because they were in such a tough group."
Nasaf coach Ruziqul Berdiev agreed with his rival's assessment.
"Today, Esteghlal were simply better than us and I congratulate them on the result," said Berdiev. "We did our best and we did not play too badly. We tried to play attacking football and to entertain our supporters. They liked our style of play but I'm sorry that our results were not better."
Nasaf, the reigning AFC Cup champions, had only managed a single point from their first five games in Group A. But the Uzbek side started very brightly and should have taken the lead after eight minutes when Kenja Turaev cut inside Javad Shirzadeh on the right of the Esteghal and unleashed a low shot that beat goalkeeper Mehdi Rahmati but came back off the far post.
The Iranian side took full advantage of the let-off by taking the lead just a minute later. A splendid defence-splitting pass by Khosro Heydari sent Jerkovic clear in the right channel and the French striker fired the ball across Murotjon Zukhorov and just inside the far post.
Nasaf responded with a period of sustained pressure on the Esteghlal goal and were only denied an equaliser by the excellent form of Rahmati, who made good saves to deny Turaev, Fozil Musaev and Ilhom Yusonov before half-time.
But any hopes that the Uzbek side had of getting back into the game were dashed five minutes after the interval when Jahongir Jiyamuradov handled a cross by Heydari and the visitors were awarded a penalty. Jabari was unerring with the spot kick, firing it straight down the middle as Zukhorov dived to his right.
Arash Borhani should have added a third in the 62nd minute when he blazed over from 20 metres after the ball had been unselfishly cut back to him by Heydari.
Esteghlal comfortably hung on to their advantage in the remaining minutes despite losing Amirabadi in the 68th minute. Having already been booked, the Esteghlal skipper lunged in on Maksud Karimov after misplaying the ball and was promptly given his marching orders.
As a result of his red card, Amirabadi will miss next Tuesday's match against Sepahan in Esfahan. It will be only the second all-Iranian clash in the competition following the Round of 16 match in 2010 between Zob Ahan and Mes Kerman which Zob Ahan won 2-1. And Esteghlal will be gunning for revenge against Sepahan after the Esfahan side pipped the Blues to the Iranian league title by a single point last week.
|AL JAZIRA (UAE)||6||5||1||0||18||10||8||16|
|AL RAYYAN (QAT)||6||2||0||4||9||12||-3||6|