Victory in defeat for Persepolis
Tehran: The 2018 AFC Champions League final didn't go according to plan but Persepolis head coach Branko Ivankovic said there was victory in defeat for the Islamic Republic of Iran side.
The fact that his players and the team's fans gave it their all meant Persepolis had won despite Kashima Antlers holding them to a 0-0 draw to seal their first AFC Champions League title with a 2-0 win on aggregate.
"I am so proud of my players, they tried so hard and put all their energy into the match. They are winners," said Ivankovic.
"I am also so proud of the great atmosphere, the Persepolis fans showed they are the best and we appreciate them."
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An AFC Champions League record of 100,000 fans, including 250 Kashima Antlers supporters who made the long trip from Japan, witnessed the two sides battle in a tight second leg.
The Azadi Stadium was filled to the brim two hours before the match kicked off and it was, Ivankovic said, a true spectacle.
"I am sorry we couldn't be Asian champions but this was our first major Asian final and we came very close.
"The players and fans showed how beautiful and fair football is in Iran and I applaud them. I would also like to thank the staff and club for helping raise us to this level.
"We may have lost but this is an incentive to do better in the future. We now have the experience of having played at this level and we will improve."