AFC - Persepolis secured their second win in Group E of the AFC Champions League™ 2023-24 on Tuesday as they defeated Tajik side Istiklol FC 2-0 at the Azadi Stadium.
A brace from Saeid Sadeghi helped the Iranian side to their second straight win in Group E, giving them six points at the halfway point of the group stage.
In the opening minutes, Istiklol were awarded a penalty via VAR when Dzenis Beganovic was kicked from behind by Masoud Rigi inside the box. However, Senin Sebai’s penalty was brilliantly saved by captain Alireza Beiranvand, who dived low to his right to push the ball clear.
The penalty was a wake up call for the hosts who soon took control of the game. Shahan Zahedi was dropping deep in order to switch the play down the channels as Persepolis probed for an opener.
Yet Istiklol continued to prove a threat on the counter, although Alisher Dzhalilov spurned two good opportunities which fell his way. Both times the captain was found on the edge of the box but was unable to keep his shots down and find the target.
The deadlock was broken on the brink of halftime. Zahedi’s free-kick was blocked but Sadeghi reacted well to pick up the ball on the left hand side, before cutting inside and taking aim.
His shot took a deflection, which deceived Rustam Yatimov in goal, looping over him to put the hosts in front.
Persepolis began the second half stronger than their first. Mohammad Omri and Mehdi Torabi moved the ball well in the final third, taking several shots from range, but nothing which troubled Yatimov.
Despite dominating the ball, the hosts struggled to find their second goal and it was Istiklol who reminded the hosts they were still in the match. However, a free-kick from a busy Dzhalilov found the target but was dealt with by Beiranvand comfortably.
Persepolis found their all important second with 17 minutes left to play, when Saeghi’s well-timed run saw him turn quickly on the ball before slotting home. It was the second time VAR had intervened in the game, with the assistant referee originally calling offside.
Zahedi came closest to adding a third for the hosts with a powerful strike from the edge of the area, but Yatimov was once again equal to it and was able to keep the score at 2-0.
Next up in Group E, Persepolis will head to Tajikistan to face Istiklol in the reverse meeting on November 7th.