Tehran Derby; One of The Most Iconic Rivalries in Asian Football
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Ahead of the 85th Tehran derby between Islamic Republic of Iran giants Esteghlal and Persepolis, the-AFC.com takes a look at the history of one of the fiercest and most iconic rivalries in Asian football.
The two teams will face off on Thursday, when the city of Tehran will see itself divided in two as high-flying Persepolis meets an Esteghlal side struggling in the Iran Pro League’s lower reaches in front of what will be an expectant and vibrant Azadi Stadium.
The first official match between Esteghlal and Persepolis, a 0-0 draw, then took place in 1968.
Amjadiyeh Stadium – now known as Shahid Shiroudi Stadium – was home to both clubs and the first setting of a Tehran derby. The venue, which is one of the oldest stadiums in Iran, is now used only for athletics competitions.
The inauguration of Azadi Stadium in the early 1970s meant that both clubs moved to a newly opened 100,000-capacity venue. The derby is now held at the Azadi, also home to the national team, and is packed to the rafters when the sides meet.
When it comes to continental football, the blue side of the city has more to cheer about than its arch rival.
Esteghlal won the 1970 Asian Club Championship – a precursor to the AFC Champions League – beating 2-1 its rival in the final in Tehran.
Esteghlal then repeated its success in the 1990-91 competition when it defeated China’s Liaoning FC by the same scoreline in Dhaka, and remains the most successful Iranian team on the continental stage.
Persepolis has enjoyed less success in Asian tournaments, with its only triumph coming when the team beat Bahrain’s Al Muharraq 1-0 on aggregate to claim the inaugural Asian Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990-91.
A Match to Remember
The Tehran derby has produced many gripping encounters over the years, but few can match the 74th meeting between the teams in February 2012, when Esteghlal went into the game as clear favorite having recorded four straight wins against its city rival.
Over 80,000 fans were in attendance on that cold winter evening at Azadi Stadium and they were treated to one of the most memorable comebacks the fixture has ever seen.
Esteghlal took a 1-0 lead into the break and then doubled advantage just minutes after the interval, before Persepolis’s Mehrdad Oladi was sent off midway through the second half as Esteghlal appeared to be cruising towards victory.
However, minutes before the red card, Persepolis had brought on Irish-Libyan striker Eamon Zayed, and it was he who would prove the unlikely hero.
As the match entered the final 10 minutes, Zayed popped up to claw one back for the Reds and three minutes later the unthinkable happened as the forward headed home a Mehdi Mahdavikia cross to level the scores.
Esteghlal had capitulated and Zayed then completed his incredible hat-trick in the 91st minute as the stadium erupted and Persepolis recorded a stunning 3-2 victory over its bitter rival.