Analysis: Persepolis struggle against Lekhwiya
Tehran: Persepolis from the Islamic Republic of Iran were held to a 0-0 draw by Qatari side Lekhwiya on Tuesday, missing a penalty en-route to the shutout ahead of next week’s second leg.
However, while the missed penalty will claim headlines, it was a display of overall wastefulness in the final third which leaves Persepolis in a tricky position ahead of their journey to Qatar.
Once again, Lekhwiya showed that much can be achieved with a patient, compact approach to the game—albeit assisted by the travails of Persepolis’ forward line.
Poor finishing proves Persepolis undoing
Persepolis will feel disappointed to have ended the tie at 0-0, having enjoyed three golden chances inside the opposition penalty area besides a Mehdi Taremi missed penalty.
Despite 59.2 percent of possession and 10 shots to their opponents’ five, Persepolis were unable to find a breakthrough to give them a lead ahead of next weeks’ return trip to Qatar.
The normally deadly strike duo of Taremi and Vahid Amiri were both guilty of big misses inside the opposition six-yard box, as goalkeeper Qasem Burhan excelled in the Lekhwiya net.
For all the quality of their build-up play on the night, Persepolis’ squandered chances leave them with a difficult task in the away leg.
Maintaining width allows Persepolis to open defence
Overall, 42.6 percent of Persepolis’ attacking play was focussed down the right side of the pitch with Farshad Ahmadzadeh particularly prominent on the ball throughout.
Yet it was from the left-side of the pitch that the Iranian side’s best moments were created, switching play and exploiting the space available on the far flank.
Striker Amiri was responsible for one delightful ball into the area, while left-back Hossein Mahini twice delivered crosses into the area which seriously tested their opponents’ defence.
With Taremi a natural target in the centre, width was key to the Persepolis game plan on the evening—successful with 25 percent of their 12 crosses.
However, once more the finishing on show left much to be desired.
Signs of possible joy for Lekhwiya
It will surprise few observers to note that Lekhwiya carried a threat throughout thanks to the excellence of Korean playmaker Nam Tae-Hee—once more an influential figure in the clash.
While Nam’s side were forced to concede possession for long periods, the Korean looked capable of causing damage whenever he picked up the ball—winning five free-kicks as Persepolis struggled to deal with his slippery attacking runs.
It was also Nam who created four of the five shooting opportunities which Lekhwiya enjoyed on the night, using his quick feet and vision to provide chances for his side when all else were failing.
Back on home soil Lekhwiya will fancy their chances of being more dominant in the flow of the encounter and with Nam in this kind of form, they will certainly expect to create what could be decisive chances.