Mame Thiam hat-trick seals Esteghlal comeback

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Mame Thiam was the hat-trick hero for Esteghlal as they beat Zob Ahan 3-1 on Tuesday to claim a 3-2 aggregate win in the AFC Champions League Round of 16.

The battle between two Iranian rivals at the Azadi Stadium kicked off with Zob Ahan in possession of a one-goal first-leg lead from a week ago.

But, just 11 minutes in, that advantage was cancelled out when Thiam sent Mohammad Mazaheri the wrong way from the penalty spot, after Armin Sohrabian had been tripped by Giorgi Gvelesiani inside the area.

Four minutes before halftime, the Senegalese striker doubled his tally with a stunning individual effort, riding a challenge and steadying himself on the edge of the box before curling a sublime left-footed effort into the top corner.

Thiam then complete his hat-trick in the 64th minute to put Esteghlal firmly in control of proceedings, playing a neat one-two with Vouria Ghafouri and sweeping a first-time effort into the bottom corner.

However, a minute later, Zob Ahan reduced the deficit when captain Ghasem Hadadifar received possession 30 yards out and fired away a left-footed drive that beat Mehdi Ramati via a wicked deflection.

At this stage, another strike from Zob Ahan would have been enough to see them progress on away goals.

Still, despite their concerted efforts, Ramati and his defence – aided by a glaring miss from Rabih Ataya deep into injury-time – were able to hold firm to secure Esteghlal’s passage into the quarters for the first time since 2013.

ESTEGHLAL: Mehdi Ramati, Vouria Ghafouri, Pejman Montazeri, Majid Hosseini, Armin Sohrabian (Omid Noorafkan 45’), Farshid Bagheri, Rouzbeh Cheshmi, Khosro Heydari (Jaber Ansari 84’), Server Djeparov, Farshid Esmaeili (Ali Ghorbani 90’), Mame Thiam.

ZOB AHAN: Mohammad Mazaheri, Milad Fakhreddini, Giorgi Gvelesiani, Vahid Mohammadzadeh, Hamid Bou Hamdan, Akbar Imani, Ghasem Hadadifar (Mehdi Rajabzadeh 72’), Bakhtiar Ramani (Mohammadreza Abbasi 80’), Mohammad Reza Hosseini, Morteza Tabrizi (Rabih Ataya 58’), Kiros.