Double Disappointment for Persepolis in ACL History

Double Disappointment for Persepolis in ACL History

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The end of the AFC Champions League era in its present format brings back to fans of Asian football two decades of happy memories and successes, but also unforgettable moments of heartbreak which is part of the beauty of the game.

As Al Ain FC and Yokohama F. Marinos prepare to conclude the era that started in 2003-04 with the final showdown at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, recounts some of ever-lasting heartbreak moments for fans of some of Asia’s top clubs.

Double disappointment for Persepolis

One of Asia’s best supported clubs, Persepolis had to watch their fierce rivals Esteghlal lift the Asian Club Championship trophy twice, in 1970 and 1990-91, and reach the final two times more, while the now defunct Pas Tehran also won the title in 1992-93 and Sepahan reached the final in 2007.

Persepolis’ time finally came in 2018 when the side featuring the likes of Alireza Beiranvand, Jalal Hosseini and others navigated Al Jazira and Al Duhail before beating Xavi’s Al Sadd in the semi-finals to reach their first-ever AFC Champions League final.

Traveling to Japan to face a Kashima Antlers side also playing their first final in the competition, Persepolis held on for an hour but found themselves falling behind to two quick goals from Brazilian duo Leo Silva and Serginho, leaving them with a mountain to climb in the second leg.

Despite the backing of a record 100,000 fans at Azadi Stadium on a cold November night, Persepolis missed chance after chance, failing to claw back the difference as a 0-0 draw in Tehran meant the home crowd went home disappointed and the trophy was Kashima’s to carry home.

Two years later, a fresh squad including some of the 2018 stars alongside new names such as Hamed Lak and Mehdi Abdi repeated the magical journey, seeing-off Al Sadd, Pakhtakor and Al Nassr to set-up a date with Ulsan HD in a single-legged final in Qatar due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dreams appeared to be getting closer to becoming a reality when Abdi drilled an effort from the edge of the area into the bottom corner to put Persepolis ahead four minutes before the break.

Minutes later, Lak saved a penalty from Junior Negrao but the Brazilian swept home the rebound to send the two sides into the dressing rooms level. Quickly after the restart, Negrao added his second from the spot again, the two mistakes in the box eventually costing Persepolis the long-awaited title as one of the Tehran side’s best generations missed out on continental glory once more.

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