Persepolis fight back to down record-chasing Al Duhail

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Persepolis produced a stunning revival to beat Al Duhail 3-1 in the second leg of the AFC Champions League quarter-finals on Monday and record a 3-2 aggregate victory.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, it initially looked as though the Iranians were dead and buried at the Azadi Stadium when Al Duhail took the lead three minutes after the half-hour mark.

A freekick was swung in from the right and, in an attempt to halt the danger, Shoja’ Khalilzadeh could only send a clearance straight into a fortuitous Karim Boudiaf, who looked on in surprise – then delight – as the ball bounced off him and into the back of the net.

A promising start for Al Duhail.

Now trailing 2-0 on aggregate, and with their opponents in possession of a vital away goal, it looked as though Persepolis had little but pride to play for.

However, they pulled one back three minutes before the hour mark when a corner was diverted into the path of Jalal Hosseini, who made no mistake in dispatching a left-footed volley into the top corner.

A miraculous comeback is on the cards…

Then, in the 76th minute, the aggregate scores were levelled as Ali Alipour did well to break free down the left and play a low cross into the six-yard box, where Sultan Al-Brake – in an attempt to deny a goal-scoring opportunity – could only hack the ball into the back of his own net.

At this point, the visitors were still headed for the last four by virtue of the away goals rule.

But, just two minutes later, a stunning comeback was completed with Godwin Mensha refusing to give up on a lost cause as a long ball was hoisted up the field, forcing his way past two defenders before rounding Amine Lecomte and slotting into the unguarded net for the winner.

Mensha proved to be unstoppable against Al Duhail.

With the result, Persepolis are now through to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the second consecutive season, where they will meet the winners of the other West Asian semi-final between Al Sadd and Esteghlal.

Meanwhile, Al Duhail have the consolation of matching the tournament record of nine consecutive wins, although they could so easily have set a new one had they been able to make the most of their promising start on Monday.

PERSEPOLIS: Alireza Beiranvand, Hossein Mahini, Jalal Hosseini (Shayan Mosleh 67′), Shoja’ Khalilzadeh, Mohammed Ansari, Kamal Kamyabinia, Ahmad Nourollahi, Bashar Resan (Adam Hemati 88’), Omid Alishah, Godwin Mensha (Ehsan Alvanzadeh 90+5’), Ali Alipour.

AL DUHAIL: Amine Lecomte, Murad Naji, Mohammed Musa, Lucas Mendes, Sultan Al-Brake, Bassam Al-Rawi (Mohammed Muntari 89’), Luiz Junior (Assim Madibo 26’), Karim Boudiaf, Edmilson Junior, Nam Tae-hee, Almoez Ali (Youssef El-Arabi 85’).